Washburn community marches in Take Back the Night

Emily Unruh

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women, and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while attending college.

A group gathered on the evening of Oct. 12 on the north Memorial Union lawn to participate in Take Back the Night. Students, faculty and members of the community came together to march across campus, listen to the stories of survivors of sexual assault and hold a candlelight vigil. The goal of the event was to bring about awareness of sexual assault and relationship violence, and to show support to survivors.

Various Washburn organizations such as Washburn University Police and the Washburn Student Government Association collaborated with the YWCA to create a night dedicated to stopping sexual violence.

Jericho Hockett, professor of psychology, started the night off by addressing some of Washburn’s own sexual violence concerns. Hockett referenced recent reports of rapes in Lincoln Hall, and addressed the trend of Lincoln being referred to as the “rape hall.”

“To call Lincoln Hall the ‘rape hall,’ tells other individuals who experience sexual or relationship violence and are thinking of reporting that we won’t remember the fact that it takes courage to make those reports,” Hockett said. “[This] diminishes the voices of those who have reported and perpetuates a culture of fear among those residents who may live on campus that their homes are not, and never will be safe.”

Hockett suggested that students call Lincoln the “hall of justice” or the “hall of the brave” instead. Hockett challenged students to look toward the future, in which we as a community support survivors in ways that send a powerful message of solidarity and support. 

Erica Hastings, freshman, said that it was important for her to attend this event because sexual violence needs to be discussed more often and taken more seriously.

After listening to several speakers discuss the importance of the event, participants gathered together, holding signs saying “consent,” “No Excuses” and “no means no,” and chanted similar messages as they marched across Washburn’s campus. 

Members of the Topeka community came out to show support for the march on Washburn, including Donna Schultz and Jamie Kendall.

“[We came to] support college women so that they know people are here to be behind them [and support them] in reporting violence and making sure that it stops,” Schultz said.

Not only were community members out to support, but students from Washburn and other universities attended in a sign of solidarity and support. Memerey Revels, sophomore, brought Mesa Weidenbach, a friend and freshman at Emporia State. 

“We are on a college campus and things like this go unnoticed,” Revels said. “If it goes unnoticed, we’ll have more victims.”

For Weidenbach, the event was a little more personal, and was a form of healing. Take Back the Night allowed survivors to be surrounded by a supportive community, and Mesa said that it was important not only that she was supported but also that she supported others, too, because she knows that “they need it more than anything.”

The evening finished with a story from a domestic violence survivor, speaking about the impact her assault had upon her. She called for people to report instances of abuse and to support those who have spoken up.

Afterward, Oshara Meesha and Linda Daniels, Topeka residents, brought drums and played a steady beat focused on calling a healthy spirit to the event as participants lit candles and sang “This Little Light of Mine.” While the candles were lit, the group shared a moment of silence, as everyone reflected on the message behind this event. WUPD then passed out cookies and hot chocolate, ending the event.

Hockett said that she believes in a different future.

“When rape occurs, it will be a rare instance,” Hockett said. “In that future, when it does occur, we can support and empower survivors.”

Take Back the Night was focused on sending a powerful message drawing awareness to sexual violence and to say that no member of the Washburn community has to stand alone and unsupported in the face of sexual assault.