By Charles Innis
Over 300 men and women, including students from City College’s Project Survive, proudly marched through San Francisco’s busy streets on April 26 for the 9th annual Walk Against Rape.
The Walk Against Rape is a citywide march led by San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR), an organization based in the vibrant, mural-adorned Women’s Building of the city’s Mission District.
Its aim is to lift the veil of silence in communities concerning sexual violence and to empower survivors of rape and sexual assault.
“It’s something that people don’t want to talk about,” City College student Ashley Neugeschwender said. “Just a peaceful walk like this, with all kinds of people, ages, races. That’s what’s important, just spreading awareness.”
Walk Against Rape raised a total of $34,000 and is still receiving offline donations. Project Survive was the top fundraising team, raising $2,435, according to SFWAR Director of Development Bhavana Manchanda.
Starting at 18th and Valencia in the heart of the Mission, the 3.5-mile trek extended from the intersection of Castro and Market streets all the way to Potrero Del Sol Park on the easternmost side of Potrero Hill.
The large, colorful gathering stretched out for an entire block, with police escorts holding the front and rear of the crowd. The Loco Bloco Performing Ensemble led the way with thunderous marching drums and a troupe of dancers.
Activists chanted and waved banners and signs reading slogans such as “My Body My Call” and “Pussy Power.”
Traffic was forced to yield as the march navigated down Market Street. Many onlookers cheered, honked their horns and shouted their support from the sidelines.
In addition to raising awareness in San Francisco’s neighborhoods, other significant goals of the Walk Against Rape are to empower communities around the issue and to provide a space where survivorship can be celebrated.
“A large part of Walk Against Rape is … to really make the community feel like they have a role in solving this, that it’s not just something that individual women or individuals do to end rape, but it’s really a community that’s going to end rape,” Executive Director of SFWAR Janelle L. White, who is also a sexual assault suvivor, said.
SFWAR is reaching its 40th year of activity. Every year has brought increasing support from various community organizations, youth groups and schools throughout San Francisco.
City College’s Project Survive has participated in the Walk Against Rape since the walk’s inception in 2006.
Project Survive, coordinated by Women’s Studies instructor Leslie Simon, is a peer education program and club at City College that trains students to make presentations on sexual violence prevention and promoting healthy relationships.
Project Survive has just implemented the Male Ally Project, a new program designed to increase male participation in sexual assault awareness and education. The program had its first meeting on Monday, April 28.
Many students enrolled in the Ending Sexual Violence: Peer Education course at City College attended the walk.
“I think the Walk Against Rape is really important because rape remains such a silent issue a lot of the times, just because of the nature of it,” City College student Gina Li said. “I think that this allows us to give a public voice to a silent issue.”
Festivities continued at the walk’s finish line of Potrero Del Sol Park with a program of music, spoken word and dance performances on the park’s modest amphitheater. Hundreds of participants relaxed on the grass and watched the show.
“I think it went really well, this is my third year doing it,” Li said. “It was really fun. There were a lot of different organizations, so it was nice to see where these different people found out about the walk.”
Despite the ongoing success of the annual walk, Executive Director White believes the primary goal of San Francisco Women Against Rape is actually to close its doors for business.
“I would say the one goal that we have, and this is going to sound strange, our primary goal is to end doing our services,” White said, “because that would mean we ended rape and we would not be needed anymore.”