Reclaim the Night: ‘Our bodies are not for touching’

A record crowd is expected in Bristol this weekend to join a protest calling for an end to sexual violence and harassment.

Reclaim the Night, part of a UK-wide movement demands that people feel safe when out at night, claiming that perpetrators need to be addressed, not their victims.

It comes in the wake of a series of allegations against high-profile figures in Hollywood and the Houses of Parliament.

Organiser Sally Patterson, President of the Bristol SU Women’s Network said they wanted to “show that every single body is beautiful and belongs to the individual, not everyone else”.

Over 300 people attended the Reclaim the Night event last year, and with more than 700 people confirming their participation on Facebook this year, the event is set to see a record-breaking turnout.

The march against gender violence and inequality will start at Queen’s Square at 7 pm, the protest will begin with speeches and a candlelit vigil for survivors of sexual violence and harassment.

Reclaim the night poster
Poster for the Reclaim the Night event taking place on 25 November. Credit: Ami Wyllie

The march will then pass through the fountains, up Park Street, across Clifton Triangle and end at Bristol Student’s Union in the Richmond building.

A live event will take place at the SU, where a line-up of poems, speeches and music will take place. Activities also include a consent campaign and a huge map on which to plot areas of the city you feel safe and unsafe.

Reclaim the Night also provides a safe space for survivors of sexual violence and harassment to share their stories and experiences. Attendees are warned that the subject matters raised on the night may include rape, assault, domestic violence, abuse, to name but a few.

The march supports victims of sexual violence and gender inequality, and invites individuals of all genders to participate.

Sally Patterson, President of the Bristol SU Women’s Network, said: “Our bodies are never for touching, or harassing, or commenting on, which seems to be a common theme, especially among the LGBT+ students.

Reclaim the Night Tea Handout
Organisers hand out tea for the Reclaim protest. Credit: Ami Wyllie

“The way you look seems to be other people’s business and in their control, and we want to show that every single body is beautiful and belongs to the individual, not everyone else.”

In light of the recent sexual harassment claims made in Hollywood and – closer to home – the UK parliament, action against sexual violence is more prevalent that ever.

Prominent sexual harassment cases include that of Harvey Weinstein, where almost 100 individual have come forward and made claims of sexual misconduct. In the UK,  Sir Michael Fallon’s resignation came just days after speculation about the sexual harassment scandal in Westminster.

The march and Bristol SU event are free to attend, though organisers ask that a small donation be made for local charities where possible.

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