By Melissa Partika
Youngstown State University students and workers held a march on Thursday to commemorate sexual assault victims and educate the campus about issues relating to sexual assault and rape.
Danielle Meyer, director of Housing and Residence Life, stressed the importance of the event.
“It highlights how we can come together as one united voice and say that we will not tolerate sexual assault on our campus and in our community,” Meyer said.
Students marched down Lincoln Avenue, up Wick Avenue and finally to Cafaro House shouting chants like “Yes means yes. No means no. Whatever we wear. Wherever we go.”
Zoe Nalbach, a Liberty High School freshman, attended the event along with her cousin.
“I thought it was a good cause,” Nalbach said. “I know somebody in this situation. It gave me a good reason to be here.”
Take Back the Night held a poetry contest, and Marissa Gray was announced as the winner. She said the event is much bigger than her.
“It is far larger than a single night,” Gray said. “Take Back the Night is a celebration of solidarity, strength and the will to survive.”
She said the event also provides a time to remember the lives lost from and forever scarred by rape, sexual assault and other forms of sexualized violence.
“As a campus and as a community we need to lift the burden of shame from the survivors and shine a light within the darkness of these often silent and underreported,” Gray said. “It is imperative we promote a culture of respect and security, standing against sexual violence and the corresponding rape culture it promotes.”
Meyer said victims should seek help and support in any way they can. Events like Take Back the Night help mitigate the stigma survivors might feel.
“Nobody should have to go through an experience such as this alone,” Meyer said.
She also said people can prevent sexual violence by helping to raise awareness, being aware of bystander intervention strategies, supporting one another and standing up for each other.
The march ended with a candlelight vigil accompanied by peaceful music.
Gray said the event presents an opportunity for the YSU community to move forward.
“Take Back the Night is a time to remember the lives lost to sexual violence, stand arm-and-arm with survivors and walk together toward a YSU, a Youngstown community and a nation where empowerment, and not victimization, reclaims the night,” Gray said.