AP NEWS

Event raises awareness for sexual assault survivors

October 19, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON — The Marshall University community and area organizations gathered Wednesday evening at Drinko Library for Take Back the Night, an event that raises awareness and support for survivors of sexual violence.

The event was sponsored by the Marshall Women’s Studies Program, Marshall Women’s & Gender Center, Marshall Housing and Residence Life, CONTACT Rape Crisis Center and Branches Domestic Violence Shelter. Several speakers presented sexual assault stories, shared resources for survivors and talked about the importance of believing those who claim to have been assaulted.

This event comes around the one-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement and two weeks after Christine Blasey Ford shared her personal story with the Senate Judiciary Committee and the entire country, accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault while the two were still in high school, during his U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearings.

The hearings, said Claire Snyder, program coordinator for the Marshall University Women’s & Gender Center, were something that was on everyone’s mind at Take Back the Night.

“All the news surrounding Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh feels personal in a way that I’ve never felt in my life, because it feels so personal to the students I work with,” Snyder said.

Snyder said events like Take Back the Night are important on campus because raising awareness around sexual assault helps to destigmatize survivors and provide them with necessary resources.

“The message that our students and other survivors are getting on the national news is that your voice doesn’t matter,” Snyder said. “Even when we say maybe something happened, maybe we believe you, it still doesn’t matter. We want students to know they have the support of their community, we believe you, your voice matters, we support you and we’re here for you. I think it’s more important now than ever.”

Snyder said students are getting more involved than ever with preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors.

One of those students, Stephanie Hansell, is working with other students to start a new, student-led organization that will put students’ voices at the front of the conversation in assessing their needs in terms of sexual assault prevention and survivor support.

Hansell said Take Back the Night is one of her favorite events of the year.

“It’s great to hear survivors’ stories and talk about the issues,” Hansell said. “Just talking about relevant events and how it affects the everyday person is so important. Unfortunately it’s buried under everything else. We talk about Kavanaugh too much and not about Dr. Ford. One name should definitely be used more, and unfortunately Kavanaugh is not it.”

Follow reporter Megan Osborne on Twitter and Facebook @megosborneHD.