The Murray State Women’s Center will host its annual Take Back the Night Monday night, but the event will have changed from past years in several major ways.
Take Back the Night is a rally held across the country on college campuses to raise awareness for domestic violence.
To combat the fear women may have encountered while walking alone at night, rallies started in Germany in 1973 to end violence against women in particular, according to the University website.
Murray State has hosted Take Back the Night annually since 1993.
This year, the event will have a theme: bystander intervention. Approximately one third of assaults are in the presence of a bystander, said Abigail French, director of the Women’s Center. This will be the third Take Back the Night she has coordinated, but the first that has undergone major changes.
“There are a lot of people who are really impacted by Take Back the Night as it’s traditionally been, but then there are a lot people who sort of walk away and say ‘I don’t really know what to do with all that,’” French said. “‘I know it’s important and I know it’s a terrible thing that’s happened to these people, but I don’t really know what to do from here.’ And they walk away asking, ‘What does all this mean for me?’ That’s really the component I wanted to add this year.”
Take Back the Night has traditionally been held at the University in the fall and on Cutchin Field. The day of the event has been changed so that it now correlates to state and national sexual assault awareness month. Kentucky’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month is March and the national Sexual Assault Awareness Month is April.
In September of 2014, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden began the “It’s On Us” campaign to stop sexual assaults on college campuses.
Monday’s event will mirror that initiative and voice the need for everyone to be involved and act together to stop assault, French said.
University President Bob Davies will be the keynote speaker, at his request. Also on the program is one assault survivor speaker, a spoken word poet and the “It’s On Us” campaign video.
At the end of the program there will not be the pledge used in past years that was for the men of the crowd, rather the “It’s On Us” pledge that is all-inclusive.
Leading the pledge will be Davies and others from all over campus. Among the numerous representatives will be Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, Jackie Dudley, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services; Re’Nita Avery-Meriwether, director of Student Life and the Curris Center; Michael Young, interim associate vice president of Student Affairs; the presidents of the National Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council; a female and male athlete and more.
The purpose of the variety of representatives is to portray that everyone needs to solve the problem of sexual assault together, French said.
Another change students will see will be the absence of the candlelight march that normally follows Take Back the Night. Instead, the lights in the arena will go down, attendees will have glow sticks and there will be a moment of silence for those who have died because of assault.
As of Wednesday, French is planning on hammering out a few more awareness events for the days following Take Back the Night. She wants to have Public Safety and Emergency Management bring a squad car into the Quad and keep its lights on and have a few people handing out fliers in order to be a visual representative of how disruptive a sexual assault is in a victim’s lives.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is a march through campus made by men in high heels to show support for the fight to end violence against women that French wants to make a reality Thursday.
“To those who might be intimidated to come, we want to see you,” French said. “We want to hear from you. We want everyone to take ownership of the event, and we’ve tried to demonstrate within the program that this is every single person on this campus, no matter what group you belong to, and so hopefully you see that reflected within the program.”
Story by Kayla MacAllister, Staff writer