TW: sexual assault, gender-based violence

Reclaim the Night, an annual campaign against sexual assault and gender-based violence, returned on Saturday 21 November.

In previous years, women marched through Sheffield city centre. However due to Covid-19 restrictions, protestors took to Zoom to reclaim their right to use public spaces without fear. 

Students’ Union Women’s Officer Lily Grimshaw, who hosted the online event alongside the SU Women’s Committee, said she found it “incredibly moving”.

“The event reaffirmed to all that attended the collective strength that is needed to tackle gendered violence, and the importance of supporting all women, both victims and non-victims,” she said.

“I feel so grateful to be working alongside such amazing individuals who have worked tirelessly to maintain the continuation of our safe spaces and feminist campaigns throughout lockdown.

“The success of Saturday night’s rally proved that Covid-19 cannot, and will not, stop our fight to live in a world free of violence.”

Opening the event, Grimshaw said the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted “the sheer number of women” who suffer violence in their own homes, citing the United Nations’ term “shadow pandemic” and the rise in calls to domestic abuse helplines.

Students read poetry and literature from feminist authors, and delivered speeches on topics including low-level street harassment such as cat-calling, the issue of sexual violence at University, and male and masculine allyship.

This year’s event was supported by the Feminist Society and the ‘Our Bodies, Our Streets’ campaign which aims to empower people to exercise outdoors without fear of street harrassment.

As part of the campaign, Grimshaw has also launched a socially-distanced protest called ‘Reclaim the Space’ in which she is encouraging protestors to “take ownership” of the public areas in Sheffield where students have reported feeling unsafe.

She has created a map of these areas for household groups to visit in daylight to show solidarity with victims of gender-based violence, and will be compiling photos of these protests into an online collection.

The protest is taking place in the three weeks leading up to 8 December.

Images: Sheffield SU

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