Students speak out against sexual violence at Take Back the Night

Crowds of students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania gathered behind the suites on Maple East in support of Take Back the Night, an event aimed toward raising awareness of sexual violence. (Morgan Cunningham/ The Penn)

Cheers of support echoed through campus Wednesday as students watched from dorm room windows and flocked to join the march to end sexual violence at Take Back the Night.

“One, two, three, four – this is what we’re fighting for. Five, six, seven, eight – no more violence, no more rape,” students chanted.

IUP’s annual Take Back the Night is sponsored by the Center for Health and Well-Being’s the Haven Project, which is designed to “offer prevention education about stalking, dating/relationship violence and sexual assault,” according to the Haven Project’s page on IUP’s website.

Hundreds of students gathered in the Putt-Delaney courtyard for opening statements and a balloon launch before the march.

“The Alice Paul House and the CARE Center staff are honored to have the opportunity to participate in kicking off Take Back the Night here at IUP by releasing the pain and raising the hope with a balloon launch,” said Heidi Malin, interim executive director of The CARE Center of Indiana County.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and national child abuse prevention month.

“This month is all about taking back the night and making people feel free and safe,” Alice Paul House Executive Director Audia Boyles said.

The Alice Paul House serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes.

IUP President Michael Driscoll kicked off the march with a short speech describing the responsibility of the university to create healthy communities.

“I have a vision for this campus,” he said, “that it be a safe place where students can feel free to go about their business without fear of becoming victims.”

Students marched from the courtyard to the Hadley Union Building by way of South 11th Street, West Maple Street and Pratt Drive.

Participants marched with signs that read “Men and Women Unite, Take Back the Night” and “We have the power, we have the right. The streets are ours, take back the night” while singing and chanting in support of ending sexual violence.

Once the group reached the HUB, they were invited to attend the Survivor Speak Out presentation held in the Ohio Room.

During this portion of Take Back the Night, survivors of abuse and violence shared their experiences, spoke about inner strength, and encouraged others not to be afraid or ashamed of what may have happened to them.

“This event is a great way to let people know that there are others out there who have gone through the same things that they have,” Nicollette Long (freshman, geoscience) said. “It also lets people know that there are resources on and off campus that they can use to get help if they need it.”

The featured speaker at Take Back the Night was Tiffany Hall Campbell, a 2001 IUP alumna and former peer educator for Health AWAREness and the Haven Project.

During her speech, Campbell stressed the importance of bystander involvement.

“See something, say something,” she said.

The goal is to help people find their voice, she said, and to encourage everyone to speak out if an act of sexual violence occurs.

“Every voice, big or small, is important,” she said. “Take Back the Night is a march for all people, not just women.”

To report an act of violence or sexual assault, contact the Alice Paul House at 724-349-4444 or the IUP Counseling Center at 724-357- 2621.