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Bereans Fight To 'Take Back The Night'

In response to startling abuse statistics and as a way to show their commitment to educating people about ending abuse, Berea College students took to the streets on April 12 for the second annual Take Back The Night March.

Organizer Mary O'Daniel stops for a photo with the Mayor's proclamation.

The first official Take Back The Night March took place in San Francisco, Calif. on November 4, 1978 in protest of the subordination of women. Back here in Berea, the idea of the march is to educate the community, support victims and survivors of abuse, and to break the silence and stigmas often attached to sexual assault and rape. Organizers also aim to provide a safe outlet for victims to seek help and counseling.

Take Back The Night was sponsored by the Department of Women’s Studies, the Department of Nursing, the Department of Child and Family Services, CELTS, the Black Cultural Center, MARS, Public Safety and Counseling Services. Local businesses around Berea also provided some financial support. A culmination of nearly a week's worth of events gave students a chance to learn more about abuse.

From Tuesday to Thursday, the White Ribbon Campaign was set up in the CPO Lounge of Woods-Penn with members of BC's MARS program handing out white ribbons, which were meant to be worn by men to show their commitment to ending violence against women. At a nearby table, The Clothesline Project provided an artistic medium that bears witness to violence against men, women and children. The shirts, donated by the Chrysalis House in Lexington, were painted by survivors, victims, or friends and family of victims of both domestic and sexual abuse. Information found on the End Abuse Foundation's Web site explains that "nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey."

Wednesday brought students even closer to the topic of abuse. CELTS hosted the Walk the Walk program. The activity was a safe simulation of the thought processes and problems experienced by a survivor of sexual violence.

The actual Take Back The Night March and candlelight vigil took place on Thursday night. The evening kicked off in Baird Lounge of Alumni Building, as President Larry Shinn gave stirring opening remarks on his stance against violence and sexual abuse towards women. Sue Reimondo from Counseling Services took the podium as well to express remorse for there being any reason that the rally should have had to take place at all, and delivered a message of hope to those present.

Darrell Harrison from Public Safety strongly urged students to report any incidents of sexual assault, and gave a brief overview about how Public Safety deals with those claims. Taylor Ballinger, a student and founder of Berea's MARS program, delivered a message of change. "I and all other men have a responsibility to bring about gender equality," he emphatically declared to claps and cheers. To wrap up the speeches, student Amanda "Revolution" Lucas took the stage to deliver a spoken word poem dealing with the fear, anguish and strength involved in being a victim of abuse.

The Mayor of Berea, Steve Connelly, declared that April 12th, 2007 was officially "A Day Without Violence" in the city of Berea by sending a signed proclamation to the event.

Students were given signs, and then embarked on their march. Their path took them all the way from Baird Lounge to the small park rest area on the corner of Chestnut and Boone Streets. Following their march, a candlelight vigil with a moment of silence was held. Participants then shared thoughts, hopes and prayers regarding their experiences with violence.

Organizer Mary O'Daniel hopes that the event will continue to be an annual one, and is confident the night's message will get through to people. "Events like this have a tendency to stick with people for a few days, then they slowly forget as each day passes," she said. "I’d love for our campus community to continue to be aware of these issues and to continue in a discourse about these issues. I want this event to stay with our students and help them remember the work that still needs to be done to achieve social change. I want our campus community to pay attention, and I want our campus community to continue to be outraged by these injustices and act on that rage in a positive way."

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