A campus-wide march protesting rape and sexual assault took place Tuesday night as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The march was part of Eastern Michigan University’s12th annual Take Back the Night event that started at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.
“This is definitely my favorite event that I have every year,” Jess Klein, program coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center, said. “It’s so
real for people and it’s so humbling, and there’s nothing like this kind of real experience.”
Take Back the Night started in Philadelphia in 1975 and is now a worldwide event to speak out against violence against women.
The night began with an open forum for survivors of domestic and sexual violence to share their stories with the group.
“The purpose of Take Back the Night … is for survivors to tell their stories,” Klein said. “So if you identify as a survivor of sexual or domestic violence and want to share your story, you are more than welcome to do so tonight. This night is for you.”
Survivors of domestic and sexual violence were not the only ones in attendance, as friends and family stood beside them and offered support.
EMU student Ryanne Havenaar was one among many who attended the event to support a survivor who is close to her.
“My mom was a victim of domestic violence, so it kind of hits home for me,” Havenaar said.
Employees and volunteers from SafeHouse Center and counselors from EMU’s Counseling and Psychological Services were also among the audience to
offer support for any survivors who might seek their help.
“We provide free and confidential services to all survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Washtenaw County,” Carly Corpolongo-Davis from SafeHouse Center said.
After the speak-out session, in which the survivors shared their stories, the group gathered for a march around campus. Both women and men carried signs and participated in chants that spoke out against domestic violence and sexual assault.
After the march, a second speak-out session was held in the Student Center Ballroom, where survivors were again invited to share their stories in
a space they could consider safe.
As Klein gave her closing statement, she challenged the audience to stand up to others when hearing derogatory statements being used, to reprimand male friends when they make “cat calls,” and to not laugh at racist, sexist or homophobic jokes. Klein said these simple things are what create violence.
“Education is the number one preventative measure of sexual violence, and I think that’s what Take Back the Night does,” Klein said.
Several events will be hosted throughout the month to bring awareness to sexual assault and promote its prevention.
For anyone seeking services, SafeHouse Center is located on Clark Road in Ann Arbor and offers legal advocacy, counseling, free health services and support groups.