Take Back the Night

This past Wednesday, April 13th was IUP’s annual Take Back the Night event. It is done every April, the month of Sexual Assault Awareness, and events like this take place all over the world.

Take Back the Night is an international event and non-profit organization that stands against sexual violence and stands with the survivors for support. Their mission is to end all forms of sexual, relationship, and domestic violence. Hundreds of these events are held in more than 30 countries every year. These events often consist of marches, rallies, and vigils meant to be protests against different forms of sexual, relationship, and domestic violence. In many situations of sexual assault, it occurs at night. Due to this fact, many women don’t leave the house at night, or at least don’t leave alone. Every spring, IUP’s Haven Project organizes their largest event that draws a crowd of hundreds of people, including students, both men and women, faculty and staff, and residents of our community.

Take Back the Night protests have been held for decades, since the 1970s and in 2001, women who had participated in some of the first Take Back the Night marches formed the Take Back the Night Foundation.

This April, IUP’s Haven Project and the Alice Paul House have teamed up with IUP and the Indiana community to take part in our own Take Back the Night, a march through our campus and community to rally together and show support for the victims and survivors of violence. Participants often carry signs with anti-violence messages, chanting messages of anti-violence and empowerment and walk through our community and campus. For more information about the event overall, please visit their website.

People gathered in the Putt-Delaney courtyard between 7:30 and 8 with signs and t-shirts ready to support victims and protest against sexual assault. Speakers during this part of the event included the leaders of the Haven Project, President Driscoll, and Western PA’s U.S. District Attorney, David Hickton. Hickton listed statistics about sexual assault against men and women, such as 1/4 women on campus are a victim of sexual assault, 1/5 men and women will be a victim throughout their life, and 2/3 of these events go unreported. He rightfully claimed that this is “the best event in the country,” and we have to “support victims in their trek to becoming survivors.” Many student organizations participated in the march including some of IUP’s Greek Life, sports teams, and ROTC members. There were over 1,500 wonderful people in attendance, which is absolutely incredible in support of something this prevalent in our society.

As the introductory speeches ended, we began the march from the courtyard, chanting, holding candles, and walking all the way through campus, and ended at the HUB where the Speak Out started in the Ohio room. T-shirts, buttons, temporary tattoos, informational pamphlets, and Insomnia cookies were given out to people who stayed for this part of the event.

When everyone gathered in the Ohio room, more introductions were made and the Indiana County District Attorney came up to speak. Some of his first words included, “If you’re a victim, you will be believed in Indiana County,” and he's very aware of the flawed government system that doesn’t always give victims the justice they deserve. He’s tired of our community blaming the victim and thinks it’s ridiculous that it’s 2016 and we are still dealing with things like this and we as a community have to own it. “It’s great we say ‘no more’ but it’s time we start living it.”

Next came the Speak Out, where victims/survivors and allies can come up to share their stories. This part is confidential to protect the privacy of everyone involved. Many broke down and cried during their sharing but everyone came out a little bit stronger. One ally (who gave me permission to quote him) stated, “I don’t have to know you, but I stand with you.” And I think everyone in the crowd couldn’t have agreed more. Victims went in and came out as survivors, whether they believe it or not.

To all of those who don’t believe that they are survivor of their assault quite yet, that’s okay, but like the girl in the crowd said to one of the victims speaking about her experience, “you seem like a survivor to me.”

Here are a few websites full of further resources for survivors of abuse and current victims:

Alice Paul House

IUP Haven Project

No More (this one has a quick escape function, a great tool for those still in abusive relationships)

(Pictures courtesy of Casey Orlosky)