Canterbury students protest against rape and sexual assault

By Claisse Opulencia, Rebecca Sheeres and Tom Schwartz

Nearly a hundred of students marched on the streets of Canterbury to protest against rape and sexual assault.

Students from University of Kent (UKC) and Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) have joint forces for the ‘Reclaim The Night’ march.

Kent Union and the ‘Respect The No’ campaign organised the march which aimed to ‘show solidarity and support for rape and sexual assault survivors’.

Student protesters chanted ‘we have the right to not be scared at night’ and ‘stop the violence, stop the rape’ which echoed down the Canterbury high-streets last night (Nov 25).

Canterbury locals showed their support by cheering the protesters as they walked through the city with colourful banners and a megaphone.

Chants: ‘Yes means yes. No means NO!’

Co-founder of the ‘Respect the No campaign at UKC, Lily Dedman, organised the event after last year’s successful rally.

She hopes the protest will spread support and solidarity for any ‘rape or sexual assault survivors’.

Lily said: “The march is to show survivors of sexual assault and rape that there are people who are there to stand in solidarity and to address the issues of sexual violence in society. We want to ensure that people understand that sexual violence is still a huge issue for all genders and that we will not stand for it.”

Student campaigners from Christ Church also took part in the rally.

The students’ union women officer, Ellie Varley said: “The March was an amazing display of solidarity to those who have faced sexual assault. No woman should fear going out late at night alone, and to see so many, especially from Christchurch, working to end this was incredible.”Students began their march from Westgate Hall, through Canterbury’s city centre and ended at the Marlowe Theatre.

Students began their march from Westgate Hall, through Canterbury’s city centre and ended at the Marlowe Theatre.

Last year’s event received online backlash from some Canterbury residents which labelled the rally as ‘pointless’.

Organisers have defended campaign, stating that the public protest reaches out to the survivors of sexual assault and offer moral support.

Addressing the negative responses, Lily added: “They don’t understand how impactful the event really is for survivors.

“There are a lot of myths and propaganda around sexual assault and I think it’s really important to understand that assault is more frequent than people would expect – the EU have found that 44% of women in the UK have been sexually assaulted and that false allegations are very rare, around 2%.

“The march has a distinct purpose: to support survivors of sexual assault and rape.”

Chants: ‘Stop the violence, stop the rape!’

National press Huffington Post travelled to Canterbury to cover the protest. Similar ‘Reclaim The Night’ rallies have taken place across the country including Oxford, Sheffield and Manchester.

Canterbury’s ‘Reclaim The Night’ took place on November 25 from 18:00, lasting a couple of hours.

Lily Dedman, alongside co-founder Katia Baudon and committee members, Holly Essex and Tana Navaratnalingam have set up the event in conjunction with Kent Union. 
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