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Members of the campus and community participate in the annual “Take Back the Night” march on Thursday which concludes the two days of events that focused on the survivors of sexual domestic violence and shares their experiences.

OU students and Athens residents march against sexual violence for Take Back the Night Week

The concept of “holding space” for someone means that a person is willing to walk alongside another person on their journey without judgement.

“When we hold space for people, we open our hearts and offer our unconditional support, we let go of judgement and we let go of control,” Kim Castor, director of the Ohio University Survivor Advocacy Program, said. “(And) I encourage all the allies in the room tonight to practice this concept.”

More than 500 people gathered in Baker Ballroom to show their support for survivors of sexual assault by marching through the streets of Athens. The final day of Take Back the Night Week began Thursday evening with a resource and art fair where attendees could learn more about how they can help and where they can look for support for survivors of sexual assault.

After the Monument Quilt showcase in October, many clients and staff members went to Castor and said being able to be in that space with their friends, professors and even the university president made them feel heard, believed and supported. 

“As I look around the room tonight, I can only hope that even one survivor feels that way after this event,” Castor said in her speech. “Believe the survivors around you. Support the survivors in this room and in your life. March alongside them tonight as we take back the night.”

After the speeches from survivors of sexual assault and allies, the crowd marched down Court Street shouting chants like “1, 2, 3, 4, we won’t take it anymore. 5, 6, 7, 8, no more violence, no more rape,” and “yes means yes, no means no, whatever we wear and wherever we go.”

Katelyn Edwards, a freshman studying criminology, said attending the rally and march made her feel “hyped up and empowered.”

As part of a new student organization focused on survivor advocacy titled “Help a Lady Out,” also known as HALO, attending events like Take Back the Night was one of the ways for Edwards to support survivors.

“It’s really important to create (an) environment that survivors would to be in (where) they’re not uncomfortable or afraid,” Edwards said.

It was Josie Pommering’s third time participating in Take Back the Night Week, and she was glad at how large the crowd was compared to previous years. In 2017, the rally and march took place on a day when it was cold and raining.

“Barely anyone was there. And then this year, ... I was barely (able) to move in here half an hour before it even started,” Pommering, a senior studying integrated media, said. “Walking down Court Street (and) hearing the speakers, it was great.”

During his speech, Tim Mousseau, the keynote speaker for Take Back the Night Week, emphasized the importance and need for allies to play a bigger role.

“We need your support, we need your love, we need your compassion. And we need your strength,” he said in his speech.

OU had the second highest sexual assault reports in 2016 among the 10 largest four-year public universities in Ohio, according to a previous Post report

With recent news about sexual assault being more prevalent in the media, being able to have events like Take Back the Night was important as it helped provide a safer space for survivors and allies, Pommering said. 

“It’s important that we give space for survivors and allies … to express themselves and to be heard and to educate and spread awareness across campus.” Pommering said. “And to let people know that they don’t have to be silenced.”

To survivors, some days can feel like the world doesn’t make any sense when they wake up and memories of the assault will come rushing back for no reason. On those days, it can be a lot harder for a survivor to get up and share their stories over and over again, Mousseau said. But they’re not alone. 

“You’re believed and you’re powerful beyond measure… I will walk with you. We will walk with you. And when it gets hurt and it’s unbearable and it doesn’t feel like you can walk anymore, we will carry you,” he said. “Because you’re never alone.”


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