Take Back the Night Becomes Digital Event April 2

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The annual Take Back the Night event, an international walk to raise awareness and bring an end to sexual assault and violence, has been modified to be a digital walk this year due to COVID-19. 

“Take Back the Night started in Athens in 1979. Take Back the Night as an international movement was born out of the second-wave feminism when we saw increasing demand for domestic violence shelters, for rape crises hotlines, and other resources for survivors.” said Dr. Geneva M. Murray, Director of the Women’s Center at Ohio University, one of many who works on organizing the Athens chapter of Take Back the Night.

Since the event is a physical march, some adjustments had to be made due to COVID-19 preventing people from gathering. Although no physical meetings are currently allowed, organizers of Take Back the Night knew that they couldn’t cancel the event during a time of need. 

“With COVID-19, we’re likely going to see an increase in domestic violence and we want people to know that we support them but we certainly don’t want people to see us canceling Take Back the Night in a moment in which they might really want to see us and engage with us,” said Murray. “Ultimately, the decision became that we were going to go ahead and do it when we said we were going to do it because of our presumption that there is going to be an increased need for survivors support- visible, online- while people are in environments that maybe aren’t as safe as we wish that they were. We want to make sure that people recognize that these issues don’t go away when we return to our homes.” 

Take Back the Night is funded by Ohio University’s Student Senate and the Women’s Center. It is co-sponsored by My Sister’s Place and Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, as well as the following Ohio University offices: the Survivor Advocacy Program, Health Promotion, Counseling and Psychological Services, Graduate Student Senate, and Housing and Residence Life.

“This walk, of course, is going to look very different- we hope that our past participants will find similar moments within social media engagement, you know, what we hear from people in regards to their experiences with Take Back the Night, and someone told me a couple of weeks ago that it was their favorite event of the year and that they look forward to it all year because of how it helps them think about being a survivor,” said Murray. “This year we’re not as focused as on numbers, but we are focused on making sure survivors know that we still see them and that we still support them, even if it is remotely.” 

The digital walk will be taking place on the originally scheduled date, Thursday, April 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST on Twitter. People are encouraged to use the hashtag SurvivorsUniteTBTN on all their posts related to the march. Additional hashtags that may also help communicate your message may include: #SupportSurvivorsBy #StartByBelieving #IWillWalkWithYou. This march has long been a time for campus and community to come together to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and harassment. To represent our campus and community effort, you can tag @ohiou and @CityofAthensOH and use #SurvivorsUniteTBTN in your posts.

“This shouldn’t just be one day, this is a movement in time in which we are capturing it all together, but throughout the year we need to be allies, we need to be supporting, we need to make sure that survivors are being heard,” said Murray. “Support services are still available for people, the survivor advocacy program is still supporting students, there are still moments in which we are able to connect.” 

There are some silver linings in moving the event to be a digital march, such as wider access for those wanting to participate.

“I think that part of what is being beneficial about us moving online is that we might see broader engagement and from some who maybe couldn’t physically come to the walks before. Just because Take Back the Night, physically, might not be happening later this year doesn’t mean that Take Back the Night isn’t happening,” said Murray. “It is threaded through so many of our programs, we don’t want there to be a month or a day that isn’t touched by the need for us to be focusing on survivors.” 

If you or someone you know needs resources, the link to Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program can be found here

National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline:  800.656.HOPE (4673)

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1 (800) 799 – 7233