Ohio University’s annual Take Back the Night, or TBTN, was held Thursday at Athens First United Methodist Church, 2 S. College St. Held virtually last year, this year took place in a hybrid format.
The doors opened and welcomed attendees at 6 p.m. In the basement of the church, a plethora of organizations set up booths, creating a resource fair for those who attended. The fair had tables for the following: Survivor Advocacy Program, or SAP; Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, or SAOP; the Women’s Center; My Sister’s Place; Division of Diversity and Inclusion; OU Student Senate; Counseling and Psychological Services; the Residents’ Action Council; Victims’ Right Ambassadors; and Sojourners.
Cheyenne Knavel, a junior studying political science and president of Victims’ Rights Ambassadors, said it’s important for the organizations to show presence and their support for survivors.
Similarly, finding herself walking through the resource fair, Catron Arnold, a sophomore studying social work, emphasized the importance of hosting the event, as it’s important to give women the power in a situation that’s often powerless.
“I think by coming out, that shows that you have the self efficacy to choose that rather than just being put in the situation sometimes you can't control,” Arnold said.
TBTN is an empowering event that women deserve, Arnold said. She said the speeches were what she was looking forward to most.
After the resource fair, people began to make their way to their seats once the clock progressed toward 7 p.m. The room filled with conversation as people began to sit down in the pews. When MaryKathyrine Tran, interim director of the Women’s Center, began speaking, the room fell silent.
In Tran’s speech, she acknowledged the advocates from SAP, all wearing purple shirts reading “advocate,” which stood as a sign of support for those who needed it throughout the night.
University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, the Ohio University Police Department and the Athens Police Department were all acknowledged by Tran as places people are able to turn to when they are in need of reporting any type of violence. SAP, Counseling and Psychological Services and Campus Care were also mentioned as places students are able to find support.
“We know working together, we can stop sexual violence,” Tran said.
Kimberly Rouse, director of SAP, and Heather Mitchell, direct service program manager of SAOP, were next to speak. They shared with the audience how imperative it is to have support as a survivor and an ally.
Following the introductory speeches, six members of OU Vibrations performed a dance to the song “I Believe You” by FLETCHER. After the dance, the stage welcomed five survivors to share their stories.
All five survivors were able to share their stories, in-person and virtual, highlighting that the path is not always linear and looks different for everyone. Through poetry, well-thought out speeches and meaningful messages, the survivors were able to speak out to the audience, which provided an opportunity for vulnerability. They were able to speak out, speak up and speak loud, and the audience was encouraged to do the same.
Upon leaving the stage, the room filled with applause.
Hailey Linenkugel, a survivor-focused programming assistant for the Women's Center, took the lead in planning TBTN. After the speakers, she talked about the door decorating contest, which had over a dozen entries. The winner of the community contest was The Gathering Place, and the winner of the campus contest was Boyd-Treudley Hall Council.
The event also has a silent auction for a Passion Works flower. After Linenkugel, Ann Brandon, associate director for the Office of Health Promotion, spoke with the crowd about standing up for themselves at all times. She also mentioned OU’s Giving Day on April 13. Giving Day is a 24-hour fundraising campaign that focuses on supporting the experiential learning opportunities for students.
Ben Miller, an undecided freshman; Jake Ratliff, a freshman studying psychology; and Seth Totten, a freshman studying computer science all emphasized the importance of attending the event to support survivors.
“It's a really important thing because survivors need to be heard,” Totten said. “Survivors went through something no one else could imagine, so it's very important that the entire community, we just drop all differences. We just come together for survivors for this one night, just for them.”
Miller and Ratliff agreed with Totten and even felt a personal connection, which led them to attend the event.
“It's just something important to me — coming out to something like this to support other people that have been through some of the similar things that people that are close to me have been through,” Ratliff said.
After the speeches concluded, the group made their way outside to begin the march. Grabbing signs reading different chants, such as “Survivors unite, take back the night,” “Yes means yes, no means no, whatever we wear, wherever we go” and “One, two, three, four, we won’t take it anymore, five, six, seven, eight, no more violence, no more rape.”
All phrases on the sign were chanted, along with “You are not alone,” “I am enough” and “Survivors deserved to be believed here.”
Together, the group made their way down the streets of Athens, including Court Street.
After the march ended, Kristin “KC” Waltz, a full-time advocate for SAP, held the cord-cutting ceremony back in the church. The cord-cutting ceremony symbolizes cutting the tie to the people and situations one wants to let go of.
The night concluded and left people feeling like they were able to take back the night.
“I hope that others are able to feel the support … and know that the resources that are here are available to them (and), most importantly, know that they're not alone,” Knavel said.