‘Light up the Night’ March held at Uni of York for Sexual Violence Awareness Week

‘We are lighting up the night in a display of solidarity with survivors of sexual violence’

CW: Mentions of sexual violence

A “Light up the Night” march was held at The University of York yesterday (Monday 6th February) to mark the start of Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

The march, which was held to show solidarity with survivors of sexual violence,  started at Greg’s Place, with attendees holding light-up candles and torches, and finished at Central Hall.

One student urged others to come along as they emphasised “it does make a huge impact as a reminder that awareness is important”.

The event began with a speech from York’s Academic Registrar, Professor Wayne Campbell. He said: “The University of York is committed to tackling the issue of sexual violence, recognising the importance of working together and keeping the conversation going”.

He urged the importance of staying proactive and highlighted the university’s Sexual Violence Steering group which was introduced last year, chaired by Professor Tracy Lightfoot, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students.

Since the last academic year, Professor Wayne Campbell said,  the University of York has “increased specialist staff support, delivered training to staff on responding to disclosures and sessions to students on how to call out inappropriate behaviour”.

He concluded his speech by suggesting that this week in particular gave staff and students an “opportunity to be part of the discussion”.

“We are lighting up the night in a display of solidarity with survivors of sexual violence”.

The march then commenced against the setting sky, with each member holding their light with solemnity and pride. A group of James College students told The York Tab that although they had come with each other, and had met up prior to the event as it was “less intimidating”, each person was marching for their individual experience.

Another attendee, who marched alone, said: “It is important to show people that everyone is together in these situations as it happens to too many people.” She continued: “it’s important to make the step even though sexual violence is often still seen as taboo. People are uncomfortable with the conversation but they shouldn’t be”.

The march was said to be the perfect signifier to the start of such an important week, as it opens the conversation in a non-confrontational way, yet in an atmosphere where emotion is still at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

The march concluded in Central Hall, where there were several stands with helpful resources and services available to York students and the wider community. University student services, Safezone, and Unity Health had stands as well as sexual violence charities  IDAs and Bridgehouse SARC. There was information on a vast range of the differing types of violence and sexual health in general, including ways to seek help for either yourself or someone you may know who is experiencing sexual violence of any kind.

The Light up the Night march only marks the start of Sexual Violence Awareness Week, and there will be events running the whole week which you can find on the University website.

The University has several resources on sexual violence available to students. Some of which include the Sexual Violence Action Plan, which can be found here, and the Consent Matters online module, which can be found on the VLE.

Other Support services are linked here and The University of York Support and Report tool can be found here.

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