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Athens activist Jan Griesinger speaks during the Take Back the Night rally that took place on April 6, 2017, on the fourth floor of Baker Center. Griesinger organized the first Take Back the Night rally in Athens in 1979. (FILE)

Take Back the Night Week highlights prevalence of sexual assault

Ohio University will continue its efforts to raise awareness on sexual assault with its annual Take Back the Night events.

Take Back the Night Week is a series of events dedicated to uplifting and helping sexual assault survivors find resources while educating the public on bystander intervention. 

This year, events will not take place for an entire week. Instead, sexual assault awareness programs and events centered on survivors’ experiences, like the Monument Quilt during Fall 2017 and the Start By Believing campaign in March, have been organized throughout the year.

M. Geneva Murray, the director of OU's Women’s Center, said efforts are being made to raise awareness and continue discussions across campus.

“We want to make sure that these conversations are being held, and we’re excited to see … Take Back the Night be a part of ongoing conversations here at Ohio University,” she said.

The week’s events will begin Wednesday with co-occurring workshops. Workshop topics range from introductory sessions for new participants to learn more about the movement, to supplementary sessions for participants to learn how to identify and respond to rape culture as well as ways to discuss bodies and boundaries with children.

Later in the evening, Tim Mousseau will give the keynote speech at Walter Rotunda. The Survivor Advocacy Program at OU will host its annual name-burning ceremony after. 

On Thursday, a resource and art fair will take place in Baker Ballroom, followed by speeches from sexual assault survivors and allies. The annual Take Back the Night march will take place after the speeches. This year, there have been changes made to the march’s route to address possible accessibility problems.

“If there are potholes, … the brick streets can be difficult to navigate when using wheelchairs or mobility aids,” Murray said. “Every bit of the walk, we want to make sure that the sidewalks are accessible to allow full participation from community members.”

Shannon Rischar said she believes organizing events like Take Back the Night can help bring attention to the prevalence of sexual assault. 

“If people forget that sexual assault is an ongoing issue, it’s more likely to escalate, it’ll happen more often and less people will ... feel comfortable speaking up about it,” Rischar, a freshman studying biological sciences, said. 

Jasmine Whittington, the vice president of The Positivity Project at OU, said raising awareness on the topic’s prevalence is important because there is not just a single form of sexual assault.

“It’s not just being touched inappropriately,” Whittington, a sophomore studying early childhood education, said. “It could come in many different forms like verbal — like being catcalled — or it could happen in relationships.”

As part of Take Back the Night Week, The Positivity Project held a booth at the third floor of Baker Center to bring attention to sexual assault statistics and help survivors find support and resources. 

“Something that we’re trying to focus on here is there’s no shame in it, it’s not your fault and we are here to listen,” she said.

Although there has not been immediate, noticeable results from the events held thus far, Murray hopes to see a change by continuing to organize and sustain these programs.

“It’s going to be awhile before we see what kind of impact it has here, but we are committed,” Murray said. “We are absolutely committed to having cultural change happening at Ohio University so that (it) is a place survivors know that they are supported.”


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