Community members banded together Thursday night in a movement to unify women, men and children against violence and sexual assault for the 25th annual Take Back the Night.
Zachary Dorholt, former state representative, has attended the event since the early 2000s. Through his work as a therapist, he can attest to why the issue of sexual violence is important.
“I work in a program specifically for adults and over 50 percent of the women in the program have experienced sexual assault,” he said. “It’s just too common, and I think people forget how significant these incidents can be.”
“If you don’t educate people at this age, coming to college, they’re going to lose the ability to have a healthy thought process of the significance of the impact,” he said.
The event, which first took place in St. Cloud in 1982, featured the Clothesline Project, music, speeches and a march through downtown.
Rebecca Kotz, the human trafficking service coordinator for the Central Minnesota Assault Center, was the keynote speaker for the event. She discussed the importance of being aware of human trafficking and sexual violence.
Along with Kotz, other speakers shared their personal experiences on the topic.
Dorholt said, “You got to hear the power of what so many of these women have experienced and how significant it was. It takes so much bravery to talk about it to a group of over 100 people in public; it’s not easy.”
Rose Madison, a womens studies major at St. Cloud State explained why it is an important event to attend.
“It gives voices to the women who don’t have one,” Madison said.
She said that she hopes the event will help end domestic and sexual violence. “Our culture is a rape culture that needs to be fixed.”
Rebecca Hall, the lead organizer of the event and coordinator of Communities of Color Outreach, said that everything went well with approximately 150 individuals in attendance.
Hall explained that she and a committee began planning the event as early as August and would meet once a week. With all the preparation, she hoped that people would take a key message away from it.
She said, “I hope people take away empowerment from this, being able to break the silence and bringing awareness to sexual and domestic violence.”
Take Back the Night is held internationally throughout September, which also marks the 21st anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
President Barack Obama stated in a press conference last year, “Sexual violence is more than just crime against individuals. It threatens our families, it threatens our communities; ultimately, it threatens the entire country. It tears apart the fabric of our communities.”
This week, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released a resource guide throughout the country to prevent sexual violence and improve response to the issue at colleges and universities.
These resources can be found on the Task Force’s website www.NotAlone.gov.
Locally, there are many resources available for victims of violence and sexual assault. Some of these include Anna Marie’s Alliance, the local Battered Women’s Program, the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center, the Women’s Center, Greek Life and others.
“Every year, take back the night. Stay involved. Don’t be shy. If you need help, reach out and contact the women’s center,” Dorholt said. “Reach out, that’s the only way you’ll be heard.”