News Analysis: Consent at UCD’s powerful Take Back the Night event

CONSENT at UCD’s (CUCD) Take Back the Night event took place last Wednesday evening in the old student bar. The evening was centred around the theme of the importance of compassion. The first half of the evening began with personal testimonies from survivors of rape or sexual assault, as well as testimonies that had been submitted to be read by members of CUCD.While in most cases the stories told were of how sexual violence had affected them, what was most prevalent was the bravery of each and every person who shared them. Organiser Julia Canney set down inclusive ground rules so that a safe space was facilitated for the speakers. The personal accounts came in different forms such as spoken word, showing the different ways survivors of sexual violence can channel their feelings and share their story to raise awareness.One issue that was highlighted was the range of ways in which sexual assault can happen, showing that there is no one way victims are affected and that the situation is not always what you hear about in the dominant narrative surrounding sexual violence. What did seem to correlate though was the heart-breaking accounts of victim blaming that each of the brave survivors read out, reminding those in attendance of the very real rape culture in that exists in university campuses and throughout the country.The second portion of the event was held outside, with a candlelight vigil in front of O'Reilly Hall, where attendees stepped forward and candidly spoke about how sexual and relational violence has affected them or someone they know. Participants stood in a circle and held candles, while more stories were shared. Many people stepped forward to thank the group for sharing, for listening and the bravery of the survivors.Some people spoke even though they said they hadn’t planned on speaking but that they had been inspired by the others and felt more comfortable than they had in their lives to speak about their experiences.Consent at UCD was set up this past January. While the group is relatively new, last week’s SU council meeting saw a motion passed that will increase SU support of the group. CUCD now hold a status similar to that of UCD for Choice, meaning the SU will working closer with it next year in terms of organising similar events and providing funding.April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and so these events are important, but they shouldn’t end when we reach May. We need to keep the fight to end rape culture alive and we must support and listen to those effected. If anyone would like someone to speak with, the DRCC hotline is available 24/7 at 1800 77 8888.