Event informs on sexual assault awareness

Anna Lawson

Take Back the Night is an international event that started in protest to the violence against women while they are walking at night. However, as the event has grown over the years, it now deals with violence against all genders.

This year’s march and rally, which has been going on for about eight years, is expected to bring in 500 people. Over the years, the march has raised awareness that all human beings have the right “to be free from violence, to be heard, and the right to reclaim those rights if they are violated.” The event is part of  Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Immediately following the march, a benefit show will take place at the FFOYA house, featuring Nashville musician Emma Dilemma and local band Heron and Crane. All donations collected at the show will go towards Hope Harbor Sexual Trauma Recovery Center in Bowling Green.

Elizabeth Madariaga, the sexual assault services coordinator at WKU, said the event provides a platform for people to work together to raise awareness.

“It helps to increase awareness,” she said. “It allows as a safe space for people to come together to show solidarity and support as well as lets people know of resources on our campus and community. It’s an easy way to get people involved and to help people make a difference.”

According to RAINN, an anti-sexual assault organization, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. On top of that, college-aged women are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women of other ages.

Madariaga said the event is important for the Bowling Green community but especially WKU students. 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault in college, according to RAINN.

“This is their time,” Madariaga said. “They are moving on to be future leaders. How they act and their attitudes toward issues will affect the future of their children and grandchildren. College age is a high-risk time,  and  it’s important to work on shifting that rape culture. We need to stop victim blaming and excusing behaviors and instead work on ending sexual assault.”

Madariaga said she enjoys seeing students let their voices be heard.

“We love having the campus community involved, and it’s great to see the students taking pride in their community and the desire to keep us all safe,” she said.

Hope Harbor has been involved with the event since the 1990s. Each year, Hope Harbor works with WKU and community organizations at the Sexual Assault Prevention Month committee to plan events in April, like Take Back the Night.

Megan Talcott, the Director of Prevention Education at Hope Harbor, said the event is a great time for everyone to come together to fight sexual violence in their community.

“It is important to let survivors know that they are not alone, that there are people who support them,” she said. “It is also important to let community members know that we are not okay with sexual assault in our community.”

According to Talcott, it is estimated that only 5% of assault on college campuses is ever reported.

“Unfortunately, college students are at a high risk of experiencing sexual assault,  and all too often the violence is never reported,” she said. “When we come together to talk about the issue we help make it easier for survivors to know their resources and how to get help.”

The event will consist of a short rally before-hand with a speaker and music, followed by a march around downtown and ending with a candlelight vigil at First Christian church. There will be poetry readings from two area survivors and a survivor speaking about their experience.

“Expect a very powerful scene,” Madariaga said. “It’s very empowering to speak out against such a prominent issue in our society.”

Talcott said she hopes victims of sexual assault realize they are not alone.

“People care and want to help,” she said. “They can change the culture and we need everyone to do their part so that we can eliminate sexual assault. I hope they will walk away feeling empowered to change their community.”

Madariaga hopes the event will shine a light on resources in the community  and the importance of the issue.

“I hope people will feel empowered and realize how important of an issue this is and how it affects our entire community,” she said. “My hope is that sexual violence will end. Survivors will be supported, not blamed and our culture will shift so that accountability for perpetrators is incredibly high.”

Reporter Anna Lawson can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]