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Community members, students march to ‘Take Back the Night’

Colleen Huston

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Katherine Baird | The Advance-Titan

UWO students and community members march together at the Take Back the Night rally on Wednesday to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence, support survivors and remember those lost.

UW Oshkosh students, partner agencies and citizens throughout the Fox Valley worked together to make the community a safer place by raising awareness of sexual and domestic violence on Wednesday at the 2017 Fox Valley Take Back the Night.

It was the 27th annual Fox Valley Take Back the Night despite the fact the event has been around worldwide since 1976, faculty advisor of Campus for Awareness and Relationship Education Leslie Wartgow said.

“In 1976 was the first original Take Back the Night, even though I don’t think it was called Take Back the Night until 1978, and it came out of people being outraged by sexual violence, domestic violence, things like that,” Wartgow said. “It’s carried on through generations and it’s become a bigger event everywhere you go, and a lot of different communities hold these kinds of things.”

The event is partnered with many different organizations both on and off campus to encourage people throughout the community to come and learn about the issues of sexual and domestic violence, Wartgow said.

“We partner with Reach Counseling Services, Christine Ann Center and other entities on campus as well, such as the Women’s Center,” Wartgow said. “Each organization, as well as the University, work really hard to outreach to the community and across campus to make sure people know about it.”

The event started with a resource fair from 5-6 p.m. in which many organizations, both on campus and off, provide information and resource material for the community, Wartgow said.

“A lot of different entities, both on campus and off, come and provide their resources so that students and community members know what kind of things they offer, whether it’s a domestic abuse shelter or a counseling center,” Wartgow said.

Debbie Peters, executive director of Community for Hope, said another important topic to discuss when supporting survivors of sexual and domestic assault is suicide prevention, intervention and grief support.

“Community for Hope was formed in 2001 in a response to a large number of teens that had died by suicide in a short amount of time,” Peters said.

Many times, victims of sexual assault suffer deep emotional and psychological damage as a result of the experiences they have had, and Community for Hope uses a program called QPR to help ease anxiety and depression following traumatic experiences, Peters said.

“QPR stands for ‘question, persuade, refer.’ It is an evidence-based program that teaches people how to recognize the warning signs of suicide,” Peters said.

Umatter is a student-led organization that works with the counseling center to provide information and resources to students on suicide prevention and awareness on campus, UWO senior Savannah Shaw said.

“We try to incorporate the dorms and work with [community advisors] to bring awareness on campus,” Shaw said. “We also try to make it known that confidentiality matters, and so if issues like assault were to come up, we would be the place to recognize you and show you different services on campus to help you out.”

The Planned Parenthood of Oshkosh has been attending Fox Valley Take Back the Night for the past couple of years, providing information on sexual health and wellness, as well as reproductive health, Planned Parenthood Regional Field Coordinator Koby Schellenger said.

“Planned Parenthood has been in Oshkosh for at least 40 years, and we’ve been in Wisconsin for over 80 years,” Schellenger said. “We’ve been here for the last couple of years tabling and showing our support, so it’s kind of been an annual event for us.”

Schellenger said the community aspect of this event is very important, and allows people to know they are supported and there is a safe space for them.

“Patients who come to Planned Parenthood, they’re looking for trusted, non-judgmental healthcare,” Schellenger said. “We want to show up for folks, not just when they’re in our health centers, but when they’re living their lives in their communities.”

From the resource fair the event progressed into a rally then a march, concluding at Reeve Memorial Union for the Never Silent exhibit, Wartgow said.

“The Never Silent exhibit after the event, all of the artwork is based on generational trauma and that concept, and is based around survivor stories and their empowerment,” Wartgow said.

Wartgow said Take Back the Night allows the community to say sexual and gender-based violence is not okay and it is not acceptable in any forms, and lets people come together in a collective space to say this is not acceptable.

“I think everyone should care about this; even if you don’t think you know someone that has been affected by this, you know someone that has been affected by this,” Wartgow said. “You may be shocked to find that out, but it’s more common than people realize.”

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Community members, students march to ‘Take Back the Night’