Take Back the Night empowers women

The traditional Take Back the Night event is to help women and girls feel empowered by walking collectively at night to raise awareness for abuse and sexual assault.

This year YWCA McLean County Stepping Stones and Women’s and Gender Studies are hosting ISU’s Take Back the Night.

It will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, beginning in the Community Room located inside the Bloomington Public Library on the first floor at 205 E. Olive St.

The event is free and open to the public, including those who do not necessarily know a survivor but still want to help raise awareness. There is no registration necessary for the event.

Take Back the Night will include speakers telling their stories of trauma and how they prevailed, then a rally and a one-and-a-half mile march through Downtown Bloomington. Lastly, the march will be followed by a candlelight vigil.

“We have six speakers who range in age from teens to adults. They are all from the Bloomington Normal area and will be here to share their experiences,” Nicole Kirstein, senior director of prevention and empowerment services at YWCA, said.

Kirstein said YWCA is expecting around 75 participants; however the number grows each year.

Alison Bailey, director at Women’s and Gender Studies, said Take Back the Night has been on ISU’s campus for over 25 years.

“Historically the march was women only. There were good reasons for this. It’s powerful for women and girls to march as a group at night to reclaim the right to move freely through their communities, [however now men are invited as well] to allow for male allies in the struggle,” Bailey said.

Bailey explained she participated in the Take Back the Night march in Cincinnati in 1990.

“There were thousands of us. We marched from the University, through downtown, over the bridge and into the sex district in Kentucky … [Yet we were still subject to harassment despite the number of us present]. With the addition of men, the cat calls have decreased,” she said.

Bailey said the main goal of this annual event is to empower women and to make resources for helping sexual assault survivors visible in the community.

The event is also to help educate the public on the extent of sexual assault and the harm it does to both the individual women, girls and their families, but also to the community, Bailey added.

Kirstein said she believes the importance of the event is to help the speakers and other survivors feel empowered, to raise awareness for sexual violence and to help people feel safe and regain their personal power by reclaiming the night.

For more information on the Take Back the Night event, contact Women’s and Gender Studies at (309) 438-2946 or contact YWCA at (309) 452-6334.

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