Gendered violence, sexual assault focus at annual event

ELIANA SAKS

MANAGING EDITOR

Dozens of University students and community members filled the Lackawanna County Courthouse Square at a rally protesting domestic relationship violence and sexual assault Thursday.

Take Back the Night has been practiced annually around the country, and in a few parts of the world, since the 1970s when women in England protested against the violence they faced as they walked the streets at night.

Most rallies take place in October which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month or in April which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The University celebrated its 24th year involved in Take Back the Night Thursday evening.

In Scranton, Take Back the Night is sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center along with help from The University of Scranton and other colleges in the area.

The Jane Kopas Women’s Center work study students, along with 30 to 40 volunteers, planned the pre-rally and developed the theme.

This year’s theme was “Remembering Our Roots, Growing Our Branches.” The t-shirt worn by many in attendance featured a tree with its roots and branches sprawling across the shirt. The t-shirt was designed by senior Samantha Grimaldi, also a keynote speaker at the rally. The meaning of Take Back the Night is unique for different people.

“Take Back the Night is being able to claim your voice again,” Kelsi Curran from the Women’s Resource Center said.

The night began with a pre-rally at The University. Students participated in educational activities and visited the 28 tables that gave out important information that discussed different aspects of sexual assault.

“We really increase the students’ awareness of sexual assault,” Justine Johnson director of the Jane Kopas Women’s Center, said.

Students then marched with community members to the Courthouse Square where the actual rally took place.

Rob Thomas, a self-defense instructor spoke first at the rally, followed by University students Nicole Thomas and Samantha Grimaldi. Afterward Curran and Johnson invited survivors or anyone who wished to speak to do so and share his or her story or words of inspiration.

“It is sad to hear all the stories because it affects so many people, but it’s [also] very happy and empowering because we are there to be able to support these people with the healing process,” senior Nicole Petitto, work study student and event coordinator, said.

After the speakers shared their experiences, attendees joined together in a candlelight vigil in honor and remembrance of survivors and victims.

A major memorable element of Take Back the Night is The Clothesline Project. The Clothesline Project is a national organization that provides survivors of sexual violence an opportunity to create a t-shirt and express their emotions. Afterward, they are hung on a clothesline to be viewed by others. The t-shirts, created by local survivors, lined the Dionne Green and the Royal Way as well as the courthouse square.

Some groups who participated in the event include: Lackawanna College, Keystone College, Marywood University, Penn State Worthington, The Commonwealth Medical College, The University of Scranton and the Women’s Resource Center.

Contact the writer:
eliana.saks@scranton.edu

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