Virtual Take Back the Night exceeds expectations by trending in Columbus

Published: April 8, 2020 Author: George E. Mauzy Jr.

Despite not being able to march down the brick streets of Athens to bring awareness to sexual violence, Take Back the Night 2020 organizers and supporters still managed to relay their messages via social media on Thursday, April 2.

During the virtual march (social media takeover), participants pledged to support sexual violence survivors and programs, made pleas to change sexual assault behavior and shared national statistics that demonstrate the seriousness of the issue.

Statistics revealed that there were 353 tweets during the three-hour event and a total of 856 messages were shared including the retweets.

One of the highlights of the night came when, according to Dr. Geneva Murray, director of the OHIO Women’s Center, #TBTN began trending on social media in Columbus, Ohio.

“It was very affirming that we have a groundswell of support to continue these conversations and programs during COVID-19,” Murray said. “It was also exciting to see other universities, Wright State, Ohio Dominican University, and Bowling Green State, support the initiative by chiming in with our hashtags.”

Murray added that while trending locally was a powerful moment in regard to reach and quantity of tweets, she was also proud of the quality of engagement as well with the various types of messages of support and information regarding resources.

“It was an opportunity to share information that we don't always have the chance to share to the same extent that we were able to last night,” Murray said.

The OHIO Women’s Center tweeted:

  • “1 in 5 American women and girls have been raped in their lifetime”
  • “An estimated 32.3% of multiracial women have been raped in their lifetime.”
  • “1 in 71 men and boys have experienced rape or attempted rape. But rape culture means that it can be challenging to come forward for men. We would assume that these numbers are lower than the reality.”
  • “51% of women who reported being raped, reported being raped by a current or former significant other. Even more know their assaulter.”
  • “Women in the lowest income bracket experience sexual violence at six times the rate of women in the highest.”

Better Bystanders, an OHIO group of peer health educators who are certified to deliver peer-to-peer programs on topics relating to sexual and gender-based violence, active bystander intervention, consent, and the intersectionality of violence, tweeted: 

  • “1 in 6 boys and men are victims of sexual violence in their lifetime.”

“This event was beyond what I expected. Any time a big disruption happens that requires your plans to change, it can be unnerving to not know what to expect,” said Kim Castor, director of the Survivor Advocacy Program. “I was very pleased with the level of engagement from the University community (departments, administrators, and students), but also with those in the community and beyond.”

She gave a special acknowledgement to the OHIO students.

“One of my favorite parts was the participation from our students,” Castor said. “They were sharing messages of support but were also talking about times when the various departments that hosted TBTN helped them. I also really enjoyed seeing several students post that they were proud Bobcats because of departments such as ours, events such as TBTN, and for decisions such as the one we made to not cancel TBTN but to rather adjust the format.”

Murray said OHIO staffers always strive to uplift diverse voices of survivorhood because they know that it can be difficult to come forward for any survivor – especially those who are marginalized in multiple ways due to the oppression they face through institutions like racism, homophobia, transphobia and classism.

“It was an opportunity for us to reach folk who perhaps don't feel comfortable engaging with the in-person event through fear of outing themselves as a survivor,” Murray said. “We hope that our visible support reached them and that they know that we are listening.”

Murray said supporting survivors during COVID-19 is crucial because varying news reports predict that domestic violence is likely to increase as abusers take advantage of social distancing to further isolation, and that job losses also decrease the access to financial resources survivors use to leave.

“We may not hear from these survivors for some time, as they shelter in place in the same space as their abuser, thus making it potentially more difficult for them to reach out for help,” Murray said. “We encourage folk who can do so safely to reach out to the Survivor Advocacy Program, Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, and My Sister's Place. For those who can't reach out, we hope that our visible display of support online let them know that we know they are there and support them."

Many OHIO departments demonstrated their support for survivors throughout the night and even provided some online resources to help them. Here’s a sampling of those tweets:

OHIO Housing and Residential Life tweeted:

  • “It is never the survivor’s fault. It’s far past time 2 challenge victim blaming.
     

OHIO Counseling and Psychological Services tweeted:

Jason B. Pina, Vice President for Student Affairs, tweeted:

  • “In the face of all the uncertainty in our world, @ohio remains steadfast in its support of survivors and will always fight against those that perpetuate gender-based personal violence.”

OHIO Division of Diversity & Inclusion tweeted:

  • “We stand by and support survivors! Thanks to everyone who is taking part in Ohio U's First virtual TBTN! The Division of D&I support and walk with you always!”

At the end of the night, the Women’s Center and Better Bystanders showed their appreciation to everyone for making the first virtual TBTN a success.

 

OHIO Women's Center tweeted:

  • “Our voices are united. Thank you for joining us! We hope you continue to #SupportSurvivorsBy listening, sharing information with your community, and by committing to change.”

Better Bystanders tweeted:

  • “In these challenging times, it is incredibly powerful to experience the level of online engagement we’ve seen tonight for the online Take Back the Night.  Your voices move mountains, change hearts and minds, and shift culture.”

OHIO Survivor Advocacy Program tweeted:

  • Thank you to everyone who participated in tonight's virtual Take Back the Night event. We LOVED seeing our feed flooded with messages of support for survivors & hope we can keep this momentum going all of April & beyond.

Dr. Gigi Secuban, OHIO vice president for diversity and inclusion, said she was moved by the number of supporters (alumni to students to faculty and staff) who came out on social media for the first virtual Take Back the Night event.

“Programs like this show that students and survivors alike find value and affirmation in having student-supported programs, despite the virtual environment we find ourselves in at this difficult time,” Secuban said. “My heartfelt thanks to the Bobcat community for making this year's virtual walk an inspiring success."

TBTN, which has had a presence in Athens and Ohio University since 1979, received an exemption from mandated reporting in order to allow for full-campus participation by all members of the campus community. Please visit Survivor Advocacy Program’s website for reporting options and resources: https://www.ohio.edu/survivor(opens in a new window)  

This year’s event was funded by Ohio University’s Student Senate and the Women’s Center. It was co-sponsored by My Sister’s Place and Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, as well as the following OHIO offices: The Survivor Advocacy Program, Health Promotion, Counseling and Psychological Services, Graduate Student Senate, and Housing and Residence Life.