Shattering the silence of sexual assault

Walking around public grounds in the dark is a privilege women generally fear. 

In order to regain entitlement, the Women’s Center at Minnesota State will end the academic year with its annual event, “Take Back the Night,” 5-7 p.m. Tuesday in Ostrander Auditorium.

Mai Ker Thao, graduate assistant at the WC for its violence awareness and response program, organized the upcoming event alongside several other advocates. 

“A lot of women go throughout their life being told to be afraid of the dark, being told to watch the way they dress; just being told that from a young age, a lot of women empathize with feeling like they’re to be treated as nothing more than sex objects,” Thao said. “Take Back the Night is a great event to come and feel the support, come and feel that you’re believed, and come and feel that your story is validated.” 

The event will consist of an hour and a half of programming, involving five different advocates, each representing different backgrounds, as well as a march. 

“We really wanted to focus on getting those who attend to really understand the impact of sexual violence, especially the impact across different communities, which is why we put a heavy emphasis on learning about different organizations, learn about advocates here, and learn about culturally specific resources,” Thao said. 

The Committee Against Domestic Abuse, or CADA, has a representative informing college students about its resources and role as a domestic abuse treatment center in Mankato. 

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, or MNCASA, has prevention program coordinator, Hunter Beckstrom, speaking from a male’s perspective about how men are involved in the equation and why its important for them to be involved in advocacy. 

A speaker from Transforming Generations, an organization that works with predominantly Hmong and Southeast Asian individuals will talk about the importance of having organizations available for all kinds of cultural backgrounds. 

BriShaun Kearns, graduate assistant at the WC, will reach both Native Americans and African Americans, and verbalize how women within these groups have historically been fetishized and treated as sexual objects. 

Lastly, Liz Steinborn-Gourley, director of the WC, will educate students on how to report crimes of sexual assault, what takes place from there, and everything the campus provides for victims. 

The night will end with a march, where everyone will walk together as one, supportive unit, chanting phrases such as, “shatter the silence.” 

“It’s one of those events where you will really feel the love and the support and people who believe in you, will listen to you, and who will be there to understand where you’re coming from,” Thao said. “Even if they can’t understand it on a personal level, they’ll still be able to understand it in an empathetic way.” 

Thao also provides a list of tips to support survivors when necessary, including the following: avoid judgments, offer support, offer to be there if they seek medical attention or plan to report, be patient, avoid putting pressure on them to talk about something they are not ready to do yet, check in periodically, and remind them you care about them and believe them. 

All are welcomed to join the Women’s Center and its team of advocates Tuesday to stand strong against sexual assault on MSU’s campus, and communities all over the world. 

Header Photo: Take Back The Night, put on by the Violence Awareness and Response Program, aims to show support for victims and survivors of sexual assault. (Courtesy Mai Ker Thao)

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

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