(WITH VIDEO) – Monday night saw the return of the Murray State Women’s Center’s Take Back the Night rally to raise awareness of sexual assault, and this year it focused on what bystanders can do to help.
At 6 p.m. in Racer Arena, Student Government Association President Michael Dobbs and Residential College Association President Paula Jaco began the evening as the masters of ceremony.
The duo introduced Kyle “Guante” Tran, a traveling spoken word artist who performed twice over the duration of the program.
Guante’s first poem spoke to men’s responsibility to talk to other men about ending sexual violence and to be proactive instead of reactive. His second analogized consent to a variety of humorous scenarios, in which all of the participants were all 100 percent OK with what was going on. He said consent is like checking if someone has their parachute when skydiving – it should be checked every time.
In between Guante’s performances was Anne Jablinski’s survivor story. Jablinski, senior from Murphy, Texas, gave a message of inspiration.
“I refuse to accept being dominated bodily, mentally or emotionally,” she said. “My weaknesses are a platform for my strengths.”
President Bob Davies gave a call to action to attendees after Guante’s second performance. Davies has gotten the call from Interim Chief Roy Dunaway and the Murray State Police about reports of sexual assault nine times throughout the academic year, he said.
He said that the members of the University make up a family, and that everyone needs to care for each individual as they would their actual family members.
“It means making those difficult decisions and telling friends no, to not walk away, to ensure that all of our members of our family are safe, and we only do that by taking a stand,” Davies said.
After the call to action, Dobbs and Jaco had the audience rise and repeat the “It’s On Us” pledge segment-by-segment after multiple pairs of campus leaders stepped up to the microphones.
A moment of silence was then observed when the arena lights were shut off and attendees held up glow sticks.
Students were also encouraged to visit Merryman House and Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center representatives, who set up tri-fold boards to advertise their programs’ services.
The event was held on the first day of Greek Week, and a majority of the large number of people who attended audience were members of Greek Life.
For Corie Beth Coplen, junior from Mayfield, Ky., and sister of Alpha Omicron Pi, this program was her second Take Back the Night.
“I feel like we don’t really take enough precautions when it comes to rape, and today especially has really opened my eyes,” she said. “To be honest, I was really dreading coming here because it’s just another thing I’m required to go to. But it opened eyes to see that we do need to take action, and we do need to be there for those girls and guys who go through (sexual assault).”
In the Curris Center’s Rocking Chair Lounge Wednesday there was a continued effort at sexual assault education which encouraged passersby to take the “It’s On Us” pledge that continued the efforts of Monday’s Take Back the Night.
Story by Kayla MacAllister, Staff writer