Take Back the Night march supports sexual violence victims

Stephanie Bachman Lead News Writer S.L.Bachman2@iup.edu

More than 2,200 students marched around campus to raise awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence Wednesday during the annual Take Back the Night, according to Amy Kinneer (senior, early childhood and special education), a co-coordinator for the event.

The event started in the quad between Ruddock Hall, Delaney Hall, Putt Hall and Suites on Maple East. Crowds began to gather as early as 7 p.m., enjoying giveaways and other opportunities to get students engaged before the event began.

At 8 p.m., multiple speakers thanked everyone for attending and led chants that continued to be heard throughout campus as students marched out of the quad and toward the Hadley Union Building. The march continued past Wallwork Hall, through the Oak Grove and around Northern Suites before ending at the HUB.

The large presence of students and chanting drew the attention of many onlookers. It even helped to bring bystanders into the crowd to increase the number of people who were helping raise awareness.

The HUB served as the end of the march, but not the end of the event. There was a speak-out in the Ohio Room afterward.

It served as an open-mic session for survivors, supporters and anyone in attendance to share their thoughts or experiences with sexual assault.

Before the open-mic portion began, the Haven Project, event coordinators from the Center for Health and Well Being and the district attorney’s office addressed the crowd. They welcomed everyone, offered their own support and reminded students of available resources.

Patrick Dougherty, Indiana County District Attorney, told the audience that his office will always be supportive of survivors and stressed the importance of talking about rape and sexual assault.

“I want to thank all of you for being active and being here tonight,” Dougherty said. “This is a community issue. This is not just a women’s issue. We want this to be a safe community. We want you to feel comfortable. We want you to know we believe you.

“Please understand that and know one of the biggest things we can do as a community is to raise awareness.”

Dougherty said education is important for when students serve on a jury and can influence the outcome of other victims’ lives.

He also told the audience to break down stereotypes such as those that say it is the woman’s fault because she was drunk, a college student or wearing revealing clothing.

During the open-mic portion, more than a dozen victims shared their stories and offered words of encouragement for anyone else in the room.

Many of the speakers said they had not planned on speaking but felt compelled to talk, some of them for the first time ever.

One attendee, a senior art student who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the subject, described the event as cathartic.

“You could feel a lot of love from the people who organized the event and participated in it,” she said. “It is really important to have because it’s really needed for the people who have gone through these kinds of things.

“As a woman, a lot of these situations kind of hit close to home. [For] some friends that I’ve had that have gone through these kinds of things to my own personal experiences, Take Back the Night reestablishes that communication. Revealing the truth is not only hard, but necessary because you can’t solve a problem until you address it.”

Throughout the speak-out, different people and organizations offered emotional support and information to anyone who needed or wanted it. This included the Alice Paul House and student representatives from ROTC.

“We came to show our support and also spread awareness about the army’s sexual harassment and rape-prevention program,” Kenna Colley (senior, human resources management) said. “I would never pressure anyone to share anything they don’t want to, and just let them know there are resources they can go to for help.”

Kinneer deemed Take Back the Night a success.

“I think it went very well,” Kinneer said. “It was our biggest one yet, with 2,200 people. We had an amazing turnout.”