Take Back the Night event promotes sexual assault awareness

Andrew Henderson

Hundreds gathered at the First Christian Church of Bowling Green ready to walk and raise awareness of sexual assault and safety.

“Because of you all being in this room we are letting victims know they are not alone and perpetrators that we won’t allow this,” Elizabeth Madariaga said, as her words echoed through the church.

Madariaga is the sexual assault services coordinator of the Counseling & Testing Center. Her words came as she was addressing the crowd of Take Back the Night. She said Take Back the Night is about addressing the negative impacts of sexual violence, speaking up against the issue and showing support to those affected.

“We want to let people know they don’t have to stand by themselves,” Madariaga said.

Participants physically rally together to show that people don’t have to stand alone as they engaged in a march from First Christian Church to around the square and back. Ashley Hilger, freshman from Shelbyville, said she felt a sense of solidarity in the march as everyone was there to address the same issue.

“It’s not something to be swept under the rug, it’s relevant,” Hilger said.

The relevance of the event can be seen in one of the event’s main partners the sexual trauma recovery center Hope Harbor. Hope Harbor community educator Megan Talcott elaborated on the history of Take Back the Night. She said the event started back in the 1970s or 80s as an event centered around women not feeling comfortable walking alone at night, so rallying together was a way to take back the night.

“Take Back the Night was their chance to come together and rally against sexual violence and take back the night, and say, ‘We can walk safely’ and we will not stand by and allow sexual violence to happen,” Talcott said.

Talcott said that sexual assault is a prominent issue everywhere and is certainly not limited to the Bowling Green area offering staggering statistics on the growing epidemic.

“We know that one in five college students will be sexually assaulted during their time on campus. We know that one in six boys and one in three girls will be sexually assaulted by the time they turn 18 and those numbers are unacceptable,” she said.

It’s numbers such as these that cause people such as Bowling Green resident Eddie Wilson to march in Take Back the Night. Wilson said this was his third year of participation in the march.

Wilson spoke of a recent Letter to the Editor sent to the Bowling Green Daily News concerning recent headlines published reading rape and sodomy, in different respective issues. The letter in question was arguing that the Daily News should published these on an inside page and not the front page, but Wilson disagreed.

“People need to know that this is out there, people need to speak up, it’s something we shouldn’t hide,” he said.

Not hiding this issue also ties back into the visual image of a large group of people marching together provides. Madariaga said the march shows people that you don’t stand alone and they were walking through the streets of Bowling Green to take back their safety and security.

“It’s rainy, it’s nasty, it’s cold and there are still people here willing to come out and stand and to speak out and take back the night and it’s significant,” she said.

Talcott concluded with the services Hope Harbor provides for sexual assault victims: free counseling, legal advocacy, 24 hour free crisis line, going to the hospital with victims and education programs.

“Know that there are others out there who are standing up and supporting you,” she said.

The 24-hour crisis line for Hope Harbor is 1-800-656-4673 or (270) 846-1100