Take Back the Night offers a safe-haven for victims of sexual assault

April 16, 2012

April Wefler
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Before the 1970s, sexual assault wasn’t discussed very openly. It wasn’t until the women’s movement that it became a public issue.

“It shattered the notion of the American family being intact,” said Mary Jane Sullivan, philosophy instructor.

Now, in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, our campus is hosting Take Back the Night, an international event. Started in 1975, citizens of Philadelphia rallied in honor of Susan Alexander Speeth who was attacked a block away from her home while walking at night.

Traditionally held when the march can be taken in darkness, Take Back the Night honors survivors of sexual assault and demands freedom from fear.

“It’s important that we change culture around women’s safety and women’s rights so that we aren’t blaming victims, but are creating an environment where everyone can be safe,” said Stephany Spaulding, an assistant professor of women’s and ethnic studies.

Spaulding added that telling women that they shouldn’t be alone or in the dark puts the blame on them when they are sexually assaulted. “Instead of training our daughters to be hesitant around darkness, we need to train everyone – males and females included – to respect each other’s lives,” said Spaulding.

“There is a high level of people being shattered by violence against them,” she added.

Stephanie Hanenberg, director of the Student Health Center, said that it’s good for males to acknowledge that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. “It empowers females to know that it’s okay to come forward to somebody,” she said.

Carrie Horner, a student violence prevention educator, explained that Take Back the Night allows a space for survivors to share their story. “It’s a gathering of people who want to share the cause and learn about the cause,” she said.

Sexual assault survivor Katie McCoy will share her personal story, and Connie Brachtenbach, the director of TESSA, will also be there. TESSA, founded in 1977, is an independent, local non-profit organization that provides confidential services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“We’re very interested in any event that challenges cultural beliefs/stereotypes about sexual assault and rape,” said Brachtenbach. She added that TESSA is thrilled to be part of Take Back the Night.

“UCCS is working hard to build a healthy culture for the student body,” she went on to say. TESSA partners with our school on a regular basis and also works with Colorado College.

“Violence in a community is unacceptable, regardless of the form it takes,” she added.

Steve Linhart, director of judicial affairs, had been teaching self-defense courses for a few years when he first became involved with Take Back the Night in 2006. He mentioned that in the past, Pike’s Peak Community College, Colorado College and even the military have participated in the event.

In honor of Take Back the Night, the Counseling Center is hosting a poster contest with the chance to win a Best Buy gift card, items from the Bookstore and various other products. The theme is “intimate partner violence.”

Posters must be 5 feet by 5 feet and submissions can be drawn or computer-designed. Entries can be turned into the Student Health Center or the LGBT Resource Center. Winners will be chosen and announced at the event.

Along with McCoy and Brachtenbach, the Take Back the Night event also features an edgy clip series of different experiences of sexual assault and a poetry reading.

“An expert panel will answer questions and expound on questions,” said Horner. Free pizza and drinks will be provided.

More info: takebackthenight.org