Jun 25, 2019
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Issue of sexual assault and domestic violence raised with event

Students may have seen statistics about sexual assault and domestic violence written in chalk on the sidewalks around campus as they walked to class.

This was part of the “Take Back the Night” event that was held on Wednesday evening near the Free Speech Area.

Take Back the Night is an international organization and event that has existed since the 1970s and first took place on campus in 1979.

The goal of Take Back the Night is to raise awareness about violence against women and gendered violence.

Jessica Adams, coordinator of gender programs and services, said the event takes place mostly on college campuses around the nation, but it was a community event and everyone was welcome to attend.

Adams said Fresno State holds the event in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Krysten Cherkaski, president of Women’s Alliance and student coordinator of gender programs and services, said that the event was important to the campus community because gendered violence is a prevalent issue.

“There’s still rampant violence against women and girls,” Cherkaski said. “Sexism is still an issue on campus and in the community, so this is an important way for students to build community to know that they’re not alone.”

Cherkaski said this event was a little different because it decided to focus more on the healing stages a victim may go through, instead of just the victimization and empowerment stages.

“It’s not only an activist event,” Cherkaski said. “But it’s a healing event and a consciousness-raising event.”

There were three keynote speakers at the event. The first talked about victimization and statistics. The second talked about healing, and the third talked about empowerment.

After the speakers, there was a candlelight vigil for victims and then a march through part of campus and on Shaw Avenue, complete with signs and chants of empowerment.

After the march, attendees sat on the University Student Union patio, and people spoke about being survivors of sexual violence in a safe environment.

All of the survivors, were then invited up onto the stage to accept a “survivor’s medallion” by the founders of the Breaking the Silence organization.

Edward Berdan, 20, a political science major and his sister Ligaya Berdan, 18, a criminology major, attended the Take Back the Night event.

Ligaya said she originally went to the event for a class, but then it became more about honoring victims of sexual violence.

“Even if you do go through it and you don’t want to say anything, like those survivors who chose not to tell their story, you can get through it,” Ligaya said. “There are people here to help you get through it.”

“This is something that society in general tends to neglect.” Edward said. “There were too many people on that stage. There should be no one.”

Adams said holding the event on college campuses is important because campuses are such a hotbed for gendered violence, so much so that some women feel like their universities are not safe.

“It’s a way to kind of empower people to realize that they are entitled to safety on campus, and they’re entitled to feel like they belong on campus without the threat of violence happening to them,” Adams said.

Cherkaski also said Fresno State’s administration has shown willingness to listen to students in regards to gendered violence on campus, but that it is an ongoing issue.

Adams said that the online training that students had to complete last semester in order to register was “a good start,” but that it should not be the only tool.

“That’s key [gender education] when we’re talking about issues of equality and issues of gender violence,” Adams said. “We have to be able to talk to the students in person, and online training isn’t going to capture that.”

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