Reclaim the night is an annual march that takes place in Cambridge in Lent Term and other places across the country. It a night intended to reclaim bodily autonomy and space that is often stolen from us by gendered and sexual violence. It is a night to walk the streets without fear of persecution. The march is often followed by a vigil where women and non-binary people across the university come together to share poems, stories, and find solidarity in each other. There is a solidarity event hosted for men at the same time. Check back on this page for details of the Reclaim the Night March 2018 and the vigil that takes place afterwards.
The Reclaim The Night marches started in the UK in the 1970s. In America they are known as ‘Take Back The Night’ and the first one was held in West Germany on April 30th 1977. In Britain they first began on 12th November 1977 when marches took place in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, London and many other cities. The Reclaim the Night marches became even more significant when, in following years, a man called Peter Sutcliffe began murdering prostitute women in and around Leeds. Feminists in the area were angry that the police response to these murders was slow and that the press barely reported on them. It seemed that it was only when young student women began to fall victim to this serial killer that the police started to take the situation seriously. Their response was to warn all women not to go out at night. This was not a helpful suggestion for any woman, let alone for those women involved in prostitution who often had no choice about whether they went out at night or not. Feminists and a variety of women’s and student groups were angered by this response. So they organised a resistance of torch-lit marches and demonstrations — they walked in their hundreds through the city streets at night to highlight that they should be able to walk anywhere and that they should not be blamed or restricted because of male violence.
Over the years the marches evolved to focus on rape and male violence generally, giving women one night when they could feel safe to walk the streets of their own towns and cities.
Today we walk for the same reasons. Because we still have not got these rights; because women are still blamed for rape and male violence. An ICM poll commissioned by Amnesty International in 2005 found that over one third of the British public surveyed believed that women were sometimes wholly or partly to blame if they were raped, for example if they had been drinking, if they flirted or dressed outrageously.
Find out more about the history of Reclaim the Night in Cambridge, here.