KSU lights candles to ‘Take Back the Night’

Kathryn McGonagle

Standing in a circle, holding small white candles illuminating only their faces in the early evening darkness, students sang “This Little Light of Mine” as part of 10 Points of Light to Take Back the Night last night at the Women’s Center.

“The candles are signifying a unifying light to encircle the entire United States, so it’s a way (for) advocates and family and friends of victims and survivors to shed light on violence,” said Amanda Roder, the graduate assistant at the Women’s Center. “The point of Take Back the Night is for survivors and people in general are able to walk alone at night and feel safe and not worry about their safety.”

Take Back the Night, which is hosted by the Women’s Center, is meant to honor the victims and survivors of sexual violence.

Kent State joined Harvard University, Brown University, The Advocacy Center, Rutgers University, University of Tampa, University of Texas-El Paso, University of Kansas, Three Rivers Crisis Center and Lehman College in participating in the 10 Points of Light event. At the same time all around the United States, these places lighted candles in memory of the victims of violence and in the hope that the night will once again be safe for survivors.

“It’s a big deal that we’re a part of this, and we should be very proud that we were chosen because there were a lot of schools in different places that weren’t picked,” Roder said.

The evening started with a name burning. In the Women’s Center parking lot, fire licked the sides of a barrel holding it in as people dropped in small pieces of paper with the names of those affected by violence and burned them to ash. The event provided about 30 people a chance to reflect on violence, their personal stories and those they love who’ve been affected.

Dodie Sacia, a volunteer with Rape Crisis in Summit County, heard about the event and came to Kent State hoping this would empower women to speak out more readily against sexual violence.

“It’s important to speak out about sexual assault,” Sacia said. “People don’t realize how common it is, and I think that if people talk about it they’ll realize they’re not alone.”

T-shirts of every size and color hung on clotheslines behind the barrel to represent those who were victims or survivors of violence. The shirts said things like “Sisters protect each other no violence,” “Never give up the fight” and “We will not be silenced.” Attendees had the opportunity to create and hand in their own shirts with meaningful messages.

Abigail Harris said she had gone to Katie Koestner’s lecture Wednesday night and was so moved she decided to attend the candle lighting.

“It’s good that someone’s speaking out and making a change because there hasn’t been that much of a change since 10 to 20 years ago,” Harris said.

For Imani Capri, this event hit close to home. As a survivor of sexual violence, she’d never attended an event like this, but found the willingness of people to spread awareness about the issue inspiring.

“It’s nice to see the campus is doing something to try to raise awareness,” Capri said. In 2007, she pressed charges against her rapist, who was her mother’s husband, and he is now behind bars.

“Sexual violence is an issue that needs to be illuminated,” Capri said.

QuJane Gordon, Capri’s cousin, works closely with survivors of sexual assault at Townhall II and said she experiences firsthand the repercussions of sexual violence. As a graduate student in community counseling, she said she doesn’t feel comfortable walking around campus at night.

“A lot of the victims I’ve worked with are Kent State students, and they don’t get a lot of help from Kent as far as the legal services are concerned,” Gordon said. “There’s that stigma of ‘I don’t want to damage the Kent State name with this story or this problem,’ so since it didn’t happen on campus we’re not going to address it kind of thing. I’ve had to go toe to toe with police officers to tell them what victim’s rights really are.”

Contact arts and sciences reporter Kathryn McGonagle at [email protected].