Loras community takes back the night

Last Thursday, the Loras and Dubuque communities joined forces to facilitate a “Take Back the Night” program. Now a national event that has grown from its modest beginnings in the mid-1970s, the goal is to raise awareness for sexual assault and violence while hoping to curtail the violence for future generations. The Loras event is sponsored by Loras’ OVE+R organization.

On the Academic Resource Center lawn, OVE+R summarized the “Take Back the Night” initiative and used skits to illustrate some of the key issues. The event then moved to the ACC Ballroom, where speakers shared their personal experiences and discussed how prevalent sexual abuse is for men and women. The group ended the night with a march around campus while carrying lit candles.

The following night, Lynn Werner presented a one-woman show called “Moon Marked” at St. Joseph’s Auditorium in Hoffmann Hall. Like the main event, the focus of the show was to illustrate how sexual violence and assault, including rape, affects a community.

“Moon Marked” was co-sponsored by Loras and the Riverview Center. Werner, a survivor of sexual abuse, presented her story along with those of women she knew and of women she had researched. There were 15 parts to her show, which included poems and interludes while she changed stage settings and costumes. After her performance, she held a question-and-answer session.

“‘Take Back the Night’ was started the year before I came to Loras,” said Valerie Bell, a criminal-justice professor at Loras. “This year was the biggest we’ve had, and we got more support this year from organizations like the Alliance and Peace and Justice. I believe we’re changing the environment at Loras and having an impact. We’re making men more aware and making them active bystanders, and women are taking more precautions.”

Over the past few years, many Duhawks have supported the initiative at Loras.

“I became involved in OVE+R after attending the First Annual ‘Take Back the Night’ my freshman year,” said Loras senior and OVE+R president Brittany Seyller. “There have been four very successful ‘Take Back the Night’ events held on campus for the college and the community. There have been many speakers that have come in, especially from Riverview Center. We have raised awareness in many different forms on campus and we have collaborated with various other groups on campus to support healthy relationships, human dignity and anti-violence movements.”

OVE+R’s belief is that sexual assault and rape are inexcusable, highly traumatizing acts that damage people permanently and create a community of violence, fear and sexism.

“I am a survivor, and I know the damage that any kind of violence can have on a person — not just physically,” said junior Jessy Hart, former OVE+R president. “OVE+R’s vision is to create a college campus where everyone feels safe … where the word ‘no’ is respected, where survivors are heard and not alone, where it is not just a woman’s issue, but a man’s issue as well as a community’s issue … Don’t judge a book by its cover, because its story could be unimaginable.”

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