Students unite to take back the night

Michelle Poje

Tomorrow evening, as darkness closes in on Kent’s main campus, you may hear their voices before you actually see them. 

Like ghosts of the night, men and women of all ages will slowly wind their way across the dark and silent campus, their handmade signs and chanting voices raised in mutual response to an issue they all hold close to their hearts: awareness of violence against women.

The annual event is called Take Back the Night and is sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center, the Portage County Council for Prevention Against Violence and the Student Feminist Union at Kent State. This year, Take Back the Night will once again join people together to march across campus and speak out against violence and fear.

Michelle Long, service outreach director of the Feminist Union, said participants are encouraged to meet at the Women’s Resource Center at 5:30 p.m. to make signs and have refreshments.

The participants will then march through Kent and attend a poetry reading at the Student Center. The rally will eventually conclude at the Women’s Resource Center at 9:30 p.m., where a survivor’s support circle will be held.

“While the march is welcome to men, the survivor’s support circle is for women only,” Long said. “The participants are not obligated to attend either of the events at the Women’s Resource Center, but we strongly encourage them to.”

Long said the rally will officially begin at Starbucks at 7 p.m., where free coffee will be distributed. Participants will then take a route that leads them down State Route 59 and to the Student Center via Midway Drive to listen to the aforementioned poetry and guest speakers from the community. At 8 p.m., participants will walk past Bowman Hall and down Terrace Drive to Starbucks, where they will have the chance to share their own personal experiences. The event will then conclude with the survivors’ support circle.

Take Back the Night is not restricted solely to the main campus, however.

For the first time ever, Kent State Stark will also be hosting the rally at 7 p.m. today, at the Main Hall of the Stark Campus. The rally, which is sponsored by the Domestic Violence Project of Stark County and the Interfaith Campus Ministry at Kent State Stark, will be held in conjunction to various other campus events recognizing domestic violence.

Rev. Thomas Douce, director of Interfaith Campus Ministry, said working with students who deal with issues of domestic violence is what spurred him and Carol Nagi, an interfaith campus minister at Stark, to take part in Take Back the Night.

“We wanted to do something more to raise awareness and empower victims,” Douce said. “We wanted them to feel that they didn’t have to be just a victim, but rather someone who can do something about it.”

Douce said he works with students who are victims of domestic violence every semester.

“We’ll have students come in who have dealt with domestic violence or who are currently in a relationship that is leading in that direction,” said Douce. “Our program has always taken the posture to listen to the needs of students and try to help them in any way we can.”

Take Back the Night first began in Europe in the 1970s to protest the fears that women have when walking down the streets at night. The first Take Back the Night rally in the United States was held in San Francisco in 1978. Since then, it has become an annual tradition that has become especially prevalent on college campuses.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in every four college women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate, with estimates of 350 cases of rape at colleges with more than 10,000 students. Less than 5 percent of completed and attempted rapes are ever reported to law enforcement officials.

Students interested in participating in the rally at the main campus should meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Women’s Resource Center tomorrow night. Additional information can be obtained by calling the center at (330) 672-9230. 

Kent State Stark’s Take Back the Night rally and candlelight vigil will begin in the Main Hall and will conclude at Stark State College, where refreshments will be provided.

Contact features reporter Michelle Poje at [email protected].