The Reclaim the Night protest made its return to Colchester on Saturday 26th, following a 3-year hiatus due to Covid.
The march traces its roots back to the 1970s when women took to the streets to protest the Yorkshire ripper murders and a night-time curfew for women, ordered by the police.
Emotionally charged and poignant, supporters gathered outside the Firstsite art gallery to light tea lights in remembrance of women who have been a victim of male violence.
The protest was organised by Colchester’s Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse, otherwise known as CARA, a charity that
‘works with victims and survivors of sexual abuse, providing independent, specialist support and promoting and representing their rights and needs.’
Head of Operations at Colchester’s CARA, Sarah Clemenston said the purpose of the march was to ‘raise awareness about male violence against women and girls in all of its forms.’
Men and women alike joined in solidarity, holding up signs and wearing high-visibility jackets hoping to light up the streets of Colchester and make noise to raise awareness of male violence.
Clemenston said that the aims of the march were to show ‘how common sexual violence and male violence is.’
She said that the march is a way to give victims a voice, as around 80% of CARAs service users do not report their cases to the police.
The protest also coincides with the World Cup, were reports of domestic abuse increase.
Lancaster University recently conducted a study, finding that the police experience a 26% increase in reports of abuse when the England football team won or drew, increasing to 38% when the national team lost.
The University of Essex has a zero-tolerance approach to abuse in any form and encourages victims to report cases.
The university operates a report and support service that is available to all students who have experienced abuse in any form. There is also the option to remain anonymous and contact an advisor.
The university also runs The Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service, or SWIS, which provides professional guidance in an inclusive and judgment-free environment.
SWIS offers a range of services including supporting survivors of sexual violence, mental health, and emotional well-being.
A referendum held on campus is open for students to vote on the Student Union and University recognising the need to operate a 24hr safe transport system.
The operation of this transport system will ensure students feel safe to stay on campus after dark and not worry about walking home, with the ONS finding that one in two women feel unsafe walking home at night.
This referendum is being held by the Women’s Officer who believes that this system is necessary as the ‘university cannot be deemed accessible if you risk your safety to access it.’
Support can be found at: https://reportandsupport.essex.ac.uk/