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UCI CARE Holds 25th Annual Take Back the Night

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Editor’s Note: This article contains sensitive material in light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

Updated: 5/1/2023 at 8:18 p.m. The portion regarding the candlelight march chant has been edited for clarity.

UCI’s Campus Assault Resources & Education (CARE) held its 25th annual “Take Back the Night” on April 27. This year’s theme was “Together We Flourish.”

The goal of the event was to raise awareness and show solidarity for victims of power-based violence. According to UCI CARE, power-based violence includes sexual assault, relationship abuse or dating violence, family violence and stalking.

The event was held at the Student Center Terrace, where CARE speakers opened the night. The event was held from 6:30 p.m. to early morning the next day.

Nearby on Ring Road, The Clothesline Project featured lines of T-shirts with painted statements describing individual experiences of power-based violence. Each T-shirt was painted by a survivor of violence or “someone who has lost a loved one to violence,” according to the project’s website.

Numerous organizations hosted booths at the event, including the UCI Counseling Center, CARE Center and 12 booths dedicated to Greek life organizations associated with the Violence Intervention & Prevention (VIP) program at UCI.

Meladee Garst, an assistant director at the Counseling Center, told the New University that the center is a resource for students on campus, including students that are victims of violence or abuse.

“[Victims of assault] will come into our office needing mental health support,” Garst said. “We’re going to let them know what their resources are [and help] them with coping skills [and] a safety plan.”

Garst emphasized that the Counseling Center provides free services and that parents and guardians will not be informed by the center when a student makes a visit. Students may make an appointment with a counselor for any mental health reason using the Counseling Center portal.

The Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity (OEOD) also had a booth at the event. OEOD is the non-confidential office that ensures UCI’s compliance with federal and state laws regarding discrimination, retaliation and harassment of either a sexual or nonsexual nature.

Greg Timberlake, a senior investigator for OEOD, explained the office’s role in investigating discrimination and harassment on campus.

“We are a neutral fact-finding office,” Timberlake said. “If someone comes to our office, we can look at doing an investigation [or] possibly resolving it in a different way.”

He explained the various accommodations the office provides to students that approach the office for help. 

“We can work with students on academic or housing accommodations,” Timberlake said. “We work with the police department and the CARE office on assisting students. We also work with students, staff and faculty on these matters.”

Students that wish to file a report regarding harassment or discrimination at UCI may do so through the OEOD portal.

Later in the evening, students and Take Back the Night staff participated in a candlelight march around Ring Road. They held glass cups containing lit candles and chanted phrases that included, “yes means yes, no means no, whatever we wear, wherever we go.”

Roph Tom, a second-year criminology, law and society student, spoke about his experience in the candlelight march.

“I thought it was very empowering,” Tom said. “Being in a community and hearing words that you really need to hear [and] making a statement across campus [is] really powerful.”

Tom also shared how being a victim of sexual assault gave the march a special significance for him.

“Sexual assault is a very powered dynamic,” Tom said. “It made me feel very helpless in many ways, so a [community-based] movement to find some sort of power or understanding in yourself … is supreme.”

To close out the event, a “Speak Out,” where victims of sexual assault were given the opportunity to share their stories, was held on the Student Center Terrace stage.

According to UCI Police Department’s 2022 Annual Security Report, there were 17 rapes, 14 acts of domestic violence, 5 acts of dating violence and 11 acts of stalking reported on the UCI main campus during the 2021 calendar year.

Victims of sexual violence can contact the UCI Counseling Center, CARE Center or UCI Police Department. They can also call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673).

Rustin Roudi is a Campus News Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. He can be reached at rroudi@uci.edu.