For the second year in a row, Take Back the Night went virtual at Ohio University. The digital event was held Thursday night and included speeches, artwork, and meditation, centered around the themes of sexual assault awareness and healing.

The event, funded by Ohio University’s Student Senate and the Women’s Center is a joint effort between the City of Athens and OU to raise awareness about sexual assault.

“The Women’s Center is proud to collaborate with campus and community partners to continue to offer this important event,” Geneva Murray, director of the Women’s Center said in a press release leading up to the event. “Each year, this program serves to center the voices of survivors of interpersonal violence, and we are once again grateful to our speakers who, in their sharing, create a virtual community space for all who have been impacted by interpersonal violence.”

Murray, alongside community partners, including students, faculty, the Women’s Center, the Survivor Advocacy Program, Health Promotion, Counseling and Psychological Services, Graduate Student Senate, and Housing and Residence Life; and co-sponsors, My Sister’s Place and Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program worked to ensure that the virtual event would be as impactful as the traditional in-person event.

The virtual center was a live stream of the stage at Baker Center, where artwork created by the Survivor Center served as a backdrop for the speakers.

Speakers for the evening included Olivia Gemarro, Cali Leasure, Sarah Lee, René Redd, and Michael Weiser. MarQuelle Phillips served as the emcee. Each speaker shared their own experiences with assault and gave testimony of healing and the strength of support, the overarching message being – you are not alone.

In the United States, one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Sexual crimes and trafficking is even higher among Native American women, with disappearances often going unresearched. Statistics on the subject are likely higher, as sexually violent crimes often go unreported.

Though the event is usually in-person and involves a march on Court Street, Take Back the Night still found a way to allow viewers to participate. Kristin Waltz, MSW, LISW, lead viewers through a cord-cutting ceremony. The visualization exercise encouraged viewers to envision a cord that connects survivors to the energy of their attacker. They then envision that the cord is being cut, thus freeing the survivor from the negative energy from the attacker or other unwanted relationships.

The community was also encouraged to participate via social media engagement utilizing the hashtags #SupportSurvivorsBy #StartByBelieving #IWillWalkWithYou.

In addition, businesses in the community were encouraged to decorate their doors and windows aligned with the message of the event and simultaneously show support for survivors of interpersonal violence.

“This will serve as a physical reminder of the culture that we want to see in our campus and community, one in which survivors are supported,” Ohio University’s event page states. “It is also socially distanced and safe. While we cannot replace the powerful visual reminders at the rally and march in the past, we can use this opportunity to create powerful visual reminders.”

April is marked by Sexual Violence Awareness month. Resources for survivors of sexual assault include:

  • ohio.edu/survivor, where reporting options and resources are listed
  • Ohio University students can call the Survivor Advocacy Program hotline: 740-597-7233.
  • My Sister’s Place hotline: 1-800-443-3402

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