‘Take Back the Night’ shines light on domestic violence

Morgan Day

Lisa Johnston composed herself on-stage with a deep breath during her speech at the 11th annual “Take Back the Night” program at the Kent Stark campus.

Johnston, a non-traditional Kent State student and survivor of domestic violence, was a little nervous to share her personal story with about 175 audience members last night. “Domestic violence is a hard subject for me because I lived it the majority of my life,” she said. “One of my first memories is my mother being choked nearly to death by my father and me telling him to stop.”

When a police officer arrived to their home, he told Johnston’s father the act was appropriate – his wife was his property.

“Thank God the laws have changed,” she said. “I grew up in that situation. I dated in that situation. I married in that situation.”

These acts of domestic violence occurred so frequently in her life that Johnston started to believe they were normal.

“Nobody told me any different,” Johnston said, “until I got sick of it.”

At age 29, Johnston discovered she had congenital heart disease, but her husband wouldn’t allow her to see the doctor. She said he took all her possessions, and she ended up in a shelter with her children.


“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said.

Johnston admitted she ignored the signs of domestic violence, even with her second husband who raped her on a regular basis. Her second husband banded together with her first and had her children taken away from her for three months.

She urged domestic violence victims to speak up and seek help, but most of all, to not lose hope.

“I’m not that extraordinary,” she said. “I’m not even that great. I didn’t do anything abnormal. All I did was not quit.”

Three million women are abused each year, said Canton mayor Janet Weir Creighton. She said individuals must confront the abuser as well as the abused to end domestic violence.

“Domestic violence needs to be thrown in front of the American public for the crime that it is,” Creighton said.

Timothy Quinnan, vice president of student services and enrollment management at Stark State College of Technology, has a 2-year-old daughter and said the issue hits close to home for him.

“I want to raise her to have self esteem – to have dignity,” he said, adding that he and his wife adopted their daughter from China, where “people are routinely treated like property.”

Local musician Ashley Brooke Toussant provided a musical message for the night with songs that were specifically written for the cause.

Charla Kelley, prevention specialist for the Domestic Violence Project, said the title, “Take Back the Night,” symbolized the fear women live in when they are in domestic violence situations — those situations usually occurring at night.

The program concluded with a march from the Kent Stark campus to Stark State. Each person carried a candle.

“The candle represents hope, strength and empowerment of these domestic violence survivors,” Kelley said. “They shine a light in someone’s darkness.”

Contact regional south campuses reporter Morgan Day at