Despite much cooler temperatures, women took to the streets holding signs, screaming chants, holding hands and supporting a cause not only affecting local women, but also those around the world.
During the march Thursday night, Ohio University students and Athens residents assembled in support of survivors of sexual assault by marching to “take back the night” for the 34th year.
The rally began with a performance by an OU women’s a cappella group, Title IX, featuring the songs “Timshel” by Mumford & Sons and “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera. Group President Carolyn Milbaugh expressed her excitement to be a part of her 4th rally. Another OU women’s a cappella group, The Tempo Tantrums, performed Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” and “Good Girl” by Carrie Underwood.
Susanne Dietzel, director of the Women’s Center, followed the performance with a speech and shared headlines from around the world and in Athens about sexual assault and violence.
“No matter if it’s men with guns, strangers who jump out of dimly lit alleys, devoted husbands, confused boyfriends or casual acquaintances who choose to violate women, they all live in a world where something or someone gave them permission to systematically assault and violate women and girls,” she said.
Though the program is devoted largely to women’s experiences, one of the rally’s speakers was male. Michael Outrich, a survivor of sexual assault who was gang raped by three teenage boys when he was 8 years old, spoke about the importance of the fight against sexual violence’s inclusion of men.
“It’s very difficult as a man to go through this and very hard to survive,” said Outrich, who just returned to college after his second suicide attempt. “But I’m back and I’m feeling better, and I urge everyone in the Ohio University community to spread this issue around and say yes, this is a women’s issue, but this a man’s issue as well.”
Another speaker at the rally, Cindy Crab, a “’zine” (mini magazine) author, spoke about her experience with incest rape and how the Take Back the Night movement, along with speaking with other survivors, helped her through dealing with her assault and the alcoholism and harmful relationships that came after.
“Before Take Back the Night, I really didn’t have many ways to cope,” she said. “So Take Back the Night provided for me a glimpse of what it could be like to feel heard and supported and to be around people who totally believed your story and that didn’t try to minimize it or blame it.”
Following the speakers, a silent, candlelit march began at the bottom of the Scripps Amphitheater and continued to the bottom of Jefferson Hill. At the bottom of the hill, the women marching reached allied men holding signs and broke their silence, screaming “women united, take back the night” and “1 2 3, end the patriarchy.”
“As we take back the night, we need to remind ourselves that this event is not only about healing the pain that exists among us but about literally taking back the night,” Dietzel said. “About creating a world where women are free of harassment and where we can walk undisturbed and where we are in control of bodies and our sexualities.”