YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Dozens gathered on the campus of Youngstown State University Thursday night to “Take Back the Night” and give a voice to the voiceless.
The event is part of the university’s recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
About 65 students, faculty, and community members marched around campus, eventually making their way back to rally around the Rock outside Kilcawley Center. Their message was simple and they made sure the entire Valley heard it loud and clear.
“We should be able to feel comfortable walking alone on streets at night, and feel comfortable even in any environment that we’re at, and shouldn’t have to worry about being attacked in any sort of way,” said YSU sophomore Hannah Mogg.
Organizers said the march and rally are ways to honor sexual assault survivors and educate not only the campus community but the entire area about issues related to rape and sexual violence.
Take Back the Night events have happened in over 30 countries and over 600 college campuses.
“It is very important for people to know that there are a lot of advocates on this campus for women, for men, for trans, for LGBTQ,” said Dr. Cryshanna Jackson, director of Women and Gender Studies. “It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s a community issue as well. There are people who suffer from sexual violence that are not just women.”
According to the Take Back the Night Foundation, one in three women worldwide experience some form of sexual violence or intimate partner violence, but men can be victims, too. Right now, it happens to one out of every six males, according to the foundation’s statistics.
Less than half of the victims report these crimes.
“If you look at our community and our numbers, it is very important that we recognize that this is an epidemic in our community and we have to challenge this,” said Dawn Powell, program director at the Rape Crisis and Counseling Center in Youngstown. “We have to get on top of it, we have to speak out and make it known that if it does exist in our area, we have to do something about it.”
She said locally, one in five women has suffered from sexual violence.
YSU junior Krissy Davis said it’s especially important for college campuses to stand up for their students.
“We like to say you can imagine five women you know and just think of one of them being affected in this way. Wouldn’t that make you want to speak out, too?”
The university encourages bystanders to speak up or intervene to prevent sexual violence:
- Be aware: Notice the potential for sexual violence/harassment
- Take responsibility: If not you, then who?
- Be safe: Keep yourself safe, avoid violence
- Act: Step in, deflect attention, diffuse the situation, recruit others to help, call the police
Survivors, advocates, even YSU President Jim Tressel talked to the crowd. Their messages were different but in some ways, the same.
Dr. Amanda Fehlbaum, Assistant Professor of Sociology: “We’re definitely trying to let students know that if they are a victim or a survivor of sexual assault or violence, that it’s not their fault and they can tell their story without shame,” said Dr. Amanda Fehlbaum, assistant professor of Sociology.
Tressel proclaimed today as “Take Back the Night Day” on YSU’s campus. He also urged students to continue in the fight to end the stigma that often surrounds sexual assault and violence, saying he’ll continue to work to make YSU a safe place to be.
The Rape Crisis and Counseling Center offers services, counseling, and legal help for all victims of sexual violence. For more information, visit the center’s website.