Take a Stand and Take Back the Night

By Alyssa Pawluk

Youngstown is invited to “Take Back the Night” this April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness month at Youngstown State University.

Students, faculty and members of the community will march at this April 16 event in protest of acts of sexual abuse and assault.

The march, organized by Student Life, will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the rock in the campus core and concludes near the Residence Halls at Cafaro House.

Take Back the Night is a charitable foundation that works to eradicate sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and all forms of sexual abuse through education and the promotion of safety and awareness. The foundation also hosts nationwide events to work toward these goals.

Kevin Carmody, associate director of student life at YSU, serves as the Title IX Deputy Coordinator for the event. Carmody said he educates and trains community members in the prevention of sexual assault.

“I’m also a member of our Title IX committee, which is ultimately a group of people looking at how does the university respond, how can we try to do more to prevent these antics on campus, and that committee, ultimately, when we were looking, thought that Take Back the Night should be something that we attempt to do this year,” he said.

Carmody explained the history behind “Take Back the Night.”

“It started back in the ‘70s in Belgium and it’s been picked back up in the United States. It’s been going on since then. It started primarily with just women talking about sort of the fear that they had at night in trying to come together and raise awareness about the fact that they had to fear for their bodies, fear for typically people of my gender, men, who were going to attack them,” Carmody said. “As we moved, we realized that this is not just a woman’s issue. Not only are men also assaulted, but, as it’s my gender who typically does these things, I have a responsibility, I feel, to come forward and raise my voice and stand in support and in solidarity with women who fear this.”

Carmody said that the event’s primary goal is to raise awareness of sexual assault at the Youngstown community.

“We’ll be chanting and trying to raise awareness of this, so stand in solidarity and raise our voice to say that this is not okay, that sexual assault, dating domestic violence, stalking, these are not values; these are not things that people should accept. They are not part of the college experience. It takes all of us to really stand together to make sure that that message is heard,” Carmody said.

Josh Lisko, a graduate assistant in Kilcawley Center, is a student coordinator for Take Back the Night, along with Kelly McKee-Foos and Gabriella Gessler.

“I asked Kevin if I could intern with him in the Office of Student Life for the spring semester. I was really excited in getting experience, some exposure to Title IX, becoming more familiar with it. Working closely with Kevin, he asked me if I would be interested in joining the Title IX Committee. We kind of decided that we needed to promote this event and do some prevention programming, and just something to help get the word out there,” Lisko said.

After the initial march, Bystander Intervention Training will be held in the Cafaro Multipurpose Room. Carmody said anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

“In my experience when someone is targeted for sexual assault, unfortunately, other people know about it. Other people see it, hear about it and often times they feel uncomfortable by it, but they don’t know how to intervene. They don’t know how to say something to stop that and we want to try and give them the skills to try and identify this,” Carmody said.

Carmody said that he started working in Sexual Assault Prevention in 2001 during his time as an undergraduate student.

“For me, personally looking at the larger issue of sexual assault, relationship violence, gender based violence prevention, there are people in my life that have been affected by, and I know seeing that pain that they have gone through. That’s what made it personal for me. I’ve seen a lot of these communities wrestling with some of these issues and trying to find the best way to figure out how we can find that communal voice. I think that what really is powerful about Take Back the Night is that it is a true community event where everyone is working together,” Carmody said.

Lisko said Carmody’s excitement was not alone in his passion for this issue.

“This is something that has become a really large passion of mine since coming over and working with Kevin. As I said, I was just really looking to do the internship and gain the experience, but this is something that now has significantly impacted, probably, where the rest of my future career events that I would like to do, fields that I would like to look into,” Lisko said. “I think that as a student it also carries a lot of weight knowing that we do have professionals who are concerned about making sure that there is a good, positive environment and community for us to be in.”

Carmody expressed his desire for strong community involvement to be achieved through Take Back the Night.

“What I’ve found is that with things like this, once you can draw in people who really give a damn about this issue and really get them together, people will see it so that people start coming in and want to be a part of that. That energy, that positivity, that sort of movement is infectious,” Carmody said. “I think that [Take Back the Night] is something that must happen. I think that we have a number of people who, of course, were affected by this on our campus. It’s too many.”