Vigil against sexual assault set for Thursday

Joanna Williams

There were an estimated 222,000 rapes or sexual assaults in 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice statistics.

Hope Harbor, a local center that provides support for sexual abuse and assault, is sponsoring Take Back the Night on Thursday as part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness on the issue.

The goal of Take Back the Night is to make it safe for people to walk the streets without fear of being sexually assaulted, according to

The event will feature a march and a candlelight vigil, said Linda Jones, an administrative assistant at Hope Harbor.

“It’s to bring awareness to the community and to be a reminder to victims and survivors about the sexual violence in our world,” Jones said.

Since the first Take Back the Night event in 1975, it’s become an international movement with countries such as England, India and Australia participating, according to the website.

Jones said Hope Harbor has been sponsoring a Take Back the Night event locally for about 12 years. The event used to be a show featuring poetry and dancing before they began having a march six years ago.

Elizabeth Madariaga, co-chairwoman for the sexual assault committee at the Counseling and Testing Center, said it’s important to raise awareness for sexual violence because it affects so many members of the community.

“It lets victims know that they are not alone and there are people who believe them,” she said.

Jones said more than 400 people showed up for last year’s march when it rained. She estimates a larger turnout on Thursday if it doesn’t rain.

Melissa Whitley, executive director for Hope Harbor, said when people see others show up, it opens up discussion on sexual assault.

“Sexual abuse is one of the things in our community that is really hard to talk about, and when you see people come out in such a large showing, it sheds some light on the issue,” she said.

Jones said she hopes the march shows people that sexual abuse can be decreased through people gaining knowledge on how to combat and deal with it.

“We hope to make it known that we can prevent this through education and awareness,” she said.

The vigil will start at the Warren County Justice Center at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.