Monday, May 21, 2018

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Take Back the Night a success in 34th year

Ohio University students and their allies in the community took to the streets to support the global initiative to shed light on sexual violence. 

Participants literally took back the night Thursday by marching the streets holding hands, chanting and waving signs while walking the streets of Athens.

Take Back the Night was celebrated for the 34th year by survivors of sexual assault.

Their supporters raise awareness about violence against women, as well as empower and heal those who have already become victims. It is both a personal movement for the survivors and a political one for a world in which this sexualized violence is much too common.

"This march represents the opportunity for women to have the upper-hand, by flocking the streets in solidarity to prove that we deserve to be able to walk the streets without fear of being assaulted. It gives us an outlet to voice our frustrations and inspire change across the campus," said Emma Wright, the Women's Affairs Commissioner of Student Senate, who had a chief role in organizing this year's event.

The program began with a mash-up of Mumford & Sons "Timshel" and Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" performed by Ohio University's Title IX, a women's a capella group. In the spirit of music that empowers women, another a capella group The Tempo Tantrums took the stage to perform "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley and "Good Girl" by Carrie Underwood.

Before the march Suzanne Dietzel, director of the Women's Center, gave a speech that called attention to the sexual violence committed in the area and explained that sexual violence was something that could be ended if the interest was taken.

"Only men can stop rape. Hopefully this program served as healing to survivors," said Dietzel. "Recovering from sexual assault is not easy and this ritual is meant to show survivors that they can overcome and that there is a community that supports them in their recovery."

Two inspiring survivors shared their encounters with sexual assault with the crowd of about 60 students and Athens residents. Stories of their individual perseverance through their recoveries captivated the crowd of people ready to march.

Sexual assault is usually a topic that lends itself to the issues faced by women, but one survivor deepened the discussion with his story. Michael Outrich told his emotional account of being gang raped by three teenagers at 8 years old. He said that his journey to recovery has been especially difficult because sexual violence against men is not as publicized, and urged all in attendance to understand that the efforts to combat sexual assault desperately need to include men. He told the crowd that he is feeling better and now returning to the University after his second suicide attempt.

The second survivor was Cindy Crab, an author who was a victim of rape and named the Take Back The Night movement and her opportunity to share her story with other survivors as a major part of her recovery.

After all the speeches and performances, attendees marched silently from Scripps Hall Amphitheatre to the bottom of Jeff Hill holding candles to pay respect to those who were assaulted. At the bottom of the hill those marching broke their silence and shouted empowering chants to show that they had reclaimed their place in the night. This movement was one that everyone in attendance agreed that the campus and the nation needed.

The Take Back The Night rally and march were part of a larger week that was dedicated to awareness about sexual assault and other sexualized issues.