Taking back the night

Mariah Williams / IC

Mariah Williams / IC

Mariah Williams, Staff Reporter

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Cries of “Women unite! Take back the night!” rang out through the evening air as women took to the streets Saturday in a stand against domestic violence and sexual assault. This year marked the 23rd annual “Toledo Area Take Back the Night.”

Community members and University of Toledo students participated in the event held at Woodward High School April 8. Holding signs, women marched a mile around the surrounding community.

Take Back the Night is a worldwide movement involving more than 600 campuses and communities in 30 countries with the goal of raising awareness and ending all forms of violence against women.

There was a separate men’s event held from 8—10 p.m. The night began with a resource fair, and people from organizations in the community presented tables with information.

During the fair, participants viewed T-shirts from the Clothesline Project, which allows women in the community who are survivors of violence to take the chance to express their feelings by writing on and decorating a shirt.

Lily Ostrander, a third-year pharmacy major, volunteered previous years to hang the shirts and said it was overwhelming to see how many stories of violence and survival these shirts represented.

“The Clothesline Project simultaneously breaks my heart and gives me hope,” Ostrander said. “It’s about unapologetically revealing your truth in a world that tells you again and again to stop talking about it.”

Following the resource fair, a rally took place in the high school’s auditorium featuring music and speakers.

Bianca Caniglia, a fourth-year student double majoring in environmental science and women and gender studies, performed an original poem entitled “10 Things.”

For the past three years, Caniglia attended Take Back the Night and has performed her poem each time. Caniglia said she felt honored to be a part of this event.

“Speaking out in the face of violence is really important to me,” Caniglia said. “Getting the chance to do that through my poetry was very exciting.”

A total of 114 women of all ages chose to march after the rally. Women who were unable to walk rode a bus following the march through the streets.

The march was a powerful experience for Courtney Campbell, a third-year nursing major. This was her first year attending Take Back the Night.

“Marching alongside other women and supporters made me feel a part of something important,” Campbell said.

Following the march, many of the women reconvened for the Survivor Speakout. During this time, women shared personal stories of how they were affected by domestic violence or sexual assault.

The speakout was important to many in attendance, including Alexandra Korsog, a fourth-year nursing major.

“The speakout made me feel like I was not alone and that I had love and support surrounding me,” Korsog said. “It was like I had armor and, for the first time, it felt great to talk about it.”

Throughout the night, women like Micki Pittman, a fourth-year social work major, volunteered as a safe person.

“As this is an event that many survivors attend, and the stories shared or topics discussed may make a person emotionally distraught or uncomfortable, a safe person functions to provide immediate care to someone who is in crisis or is triggered,” Pittman said.

These volunteers undergo a comprehensive advocate training offered through the Young Women’s Christian Association.

“Sexual and physical violence against women is a serious crime, and it happens everywhere,” Pittman said. “There is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed; it is not your fault and you are not alone.”

The event covers difficult topics, which can be intimidating for some, but Ostrander believes this is why it is so important. The event had a profound impact on her and many others.

“Each year I take away more insight into my own experiences with sexual assault, as well as a deeper understanding of the experiences of those around me,” Ostrander said. “I hope others take away not only a list of resources for where they or a loved one can find help, but also a bit of healing in knowing that they are surrounded by a community who will listen and care about their experiences.”

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Taking back the night