UCCS students protested outside of the Roaring Fork dining hall on Oct. 29 to give a voice to victims of sexual violence. The protest, “Take Back the Night,” ended with a constructive discussion about aspects of campus that make students feel unsafe and what can be done to fix those issues.
The open forum discussion, led by women’s and ethnic studies junior Taylor Vallance, strove to bring attention to the aspects of campus that concern students. Vallance coordinated with resident assistants and UCCS staff to ensure leadership would be present to be able to address the students’ concerns.
Students mentioned key issues such as lack of support from the Office of Institutional Equity when reporting sexual assault, faulty lighting leading to dark areas around campus at night, and not feeling comfortable enough with RAs to bring issues to them.
One student told a story of reporting an incident to an RA when she heard a woman screaming in the dorms. She was brushed off and told to “call back if she keeps screaming.” Police were eventually called because of the inaction.
RAs were challenged to make themselves more available to their residents, and to take the time to develop a relationship with those under their care to help build more trust.
Another student was concerned by the lack of sexual assault training given to students.
As an RA and a sexual assault survivor, Vallance offered their knowledge on the effects of sexual violence. They feel that complaints of sexual violence are not taken seriously on campus and aimed for this protest to bring more attention to the issue.
Vallance detailed their commitment to address these issues with university administration. “From there, whether it’s protest, whether it’s writing, whoever I need to write; the Dean of Students, the Chancellor’s office, whatever, [we will] go ahead and discuss ways to make this campus safer and more accessible for students and especially the ones that are already feeling targeted,” Vallance said.
According to Vallance, the purpose behind the protest was to give a voice to victims of sexual violence, as well as to show those victims they have support.
“I want everyone to feel heard, and to feel empowered to live their lives authentically, truly and fairly,” Vallance said. “It started as a way for people to say that no matter what I wear, what I look like who I am, my clothes are not my consent. Nothing is my consent except for my consent.”
“I want people to feel empowered. I want people to feel like they have a voice especially going into holiday [Halloween] weekend. Because even if they leave campus and go to a party or whatever, they can carry with them the energy that we create,” they added.
While the turnout was not what they expected, Vallance felt the smaller group discussion still highlighted important concerns from students, as well as ways administration can fix the issues.
“I know the importance of seeing people who are either standing behind me or people who have also lived in that experience, and that are willing to stand up and speak out. It’s important to see that there are people willing to fight for you or themselves,” Vallance said.
Vallance said they received extensive sexual assault training during their time as a desk assistant at the University of Northern Colorado. They felt the training offered at UCCS was not adequate to deal with the complexities of sexual violence issues.
Vallance was involved in Take Back the Night when they were a student at UNC and wanted to bring the same attention and energy to UCCS. Vallance plans to coordinate another protest in the spring to continue to emphasize the importance of sexual assault awareness.
Vallance encourages anyone who would like to bring attention to these concerns to email them at [email protected].