By Taylor Stoudt
The fact that sexual violence is something that impacts everybody is one of the many important messages that Take Back the Night (TBTN) aims to convey.
TBTN is an international event and is annually hosted at Ohio Wesleyan by the Women’s House (WoHo). The campaign is organized to focus on rape and sexual assault as human issues rather than exclusively women’s issues.
The event, held last Thursday evening in Bishop Café was filled with survivors of sexual violence sharing their stories and the loving and undeniable support of an audience with tearful eyes and hands held over hearts.
The speak-out portion of TBTN consisted of stories told by both female and male students of first- and second-hand experiences with sexual assault and rape at all ages and committed by all genders.
The speak-out is a way of breaking the silence for victims who are living in a society in which it is too often seen as unacceptable to talk about experiences with sexual violence.
“I would say that the most important outcome (of Take Back the Night), at least in my eyes, is letting survivors know and physically see that they aren’t alone as they so often feel and breaking the silence regarding this issue, because we live in a culture where it’s not okay to talk about it,” said senior Paige Ruppel, current WoHo moderator.
“Every year I think all the members of the house have several people come up to them and say thank you and express that it was a very powerful event for them whether or not they have been directly affected by sexual violence or not.”
Junior Gus Wood, a current WoHo resident, also feels the speak-out is of great importance to the event.
“I think the catharsis and sense of relief that telling the trauma out into a room of people who see the speakers as the beautiful and amazing survivors they are is the most important part (of Take Back the Night),” he said.
“I feel that the speakers come away with more than the listeners. Some have been silent their entire lives and needed a community that cares to finally feel able (to speak). With every speaker brave enough to share, though, there is a listener finally hearing these stories, finally seeing these problems and maybe finally finding the courage to work on ending violence.”
Prior to the sharing portion of the speak-out, members of Chi Phi talked about what men can do and ways that men can help prevent sexual violence. These actions included not viewing men only as offenders, but as “empowered bystanders” who can speak up against sexual violence and homophobia; refusing to fund rape culture by not being consumers of propaganda and media that “portrays women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner”; and leading by example for younger generations.
Following the speak-out, attendees congregated on the JAYwalk to light candles for victims of sexual violence and participated in the tradition of a march, during which empowering chants were recited. The march traveled through campus and concluded at the House of Peace & Justice for a bonfire.
“The bonfire has always happened at P&J,” Ruppel said.
“It’s always been a way to show the support between the houses for this event.”
Students convened around the fire for a moment of silence after which messages and prayers were written on pieces of paper and thrown into the fire.
Bill Withers’s “Lean On Me” was sung and students embraced one another to show their emotional and physical support.