Amanda Betts – Staff Writer
CLARION, Pa.- The annual Take Back the Night event hosted by V-Day took place Oct. 19 in the Gemmell Multi-Purpose Room. Both Passages and V-Day participated in the organization and execution of the event, and with the current election and the comments made by Republican nominee for president Donald Trump, it is V-Day’s stance that Take Back the Night is more important than ever.
The president of Clarion University’s V-Day group, Natalia Naranjo, opened the discussion by inviting several members of the audience, including V-Day members, club alumni, and community members to share their experiences of sexual assault.
Women from multiple backgrounds bravely told of their encounters and encouraged other victims to do the same. One speaker was adamant in her message that “sexual assault does not define who you are.”
A similar powerful message came from another guest speaker, “they took something from you, but you are still you.”
Sexual assault is common on college campuses, and according to the Campus Safety Magazine website, “80 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 30.”
According to the same website, more than half of raped college women do not report their victimization to anyone, let alone campus officials. Another speaker at the Take Back the Night event talked a great deal about society and its treatment of victims.
Victims are often made to feel as if the assault was their fault. Discouraging this exact belief is what Take Back the Night is all about.
V-Day Public Relations person Cierra Southerton expressed the importance of understanding that assault comes in many forms and that victim-blaming is “dangerous and inexcusable.”
A speaker who is a V-Day alumni discussed rape culture, the importance of stopping the normalization of sexual assault and doing something to end it. She also talked about society’s treatment of victims and left several members of the audience speechless when she said, “he is innocent until proven guilty, but I am a liar until proven honest.”
According to statistics given by one of the speakers, there is a sexual assault about every 2.5 minutes in the general population.
Sexual assault is not just an issue for women, however. Men are often victims of assault as well and face their own set of societal pressures. Society often portrays male victims as “weak,” or in some cases, even implies that they are “lucky” to have been assaulted if it is by a woman. Men are, according to another speaker, often even less likely than women to report a sexual assault.
After the pre-planned speakers concluded, the floor was opened to members of the audience and many survivors shared their stories. Naranjo expressed the importance of this section of the event, saying it allows people to know “they aren’t alone” and provides them with a safe place to share their stories without fear of judgement.
“I really hope people leave with an understanding of what survivors go through,” Naranjo concluded. “There are so many people that are willing to help you get through it.”