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A group of women hold signs at the 38th annual Take Back The Night event at Fresno State, on Oct. 24, 2017. Take Back The Night is an international event that raises awareness to end domestic, sexual and relationship violence. (Benjamin Cruz/The Collegian)

Take Back the Night: Sexual assault survivors gain courage

As the sun set over the Henry Madden Library Tuesday, male and female students huddled together, encircling the Free Speech Area. They were waiting for night to fall.

Since the beginning of the semester, the Cross Cultural and Gender Center and the Women’s Alliance had been planning this night as the night to “Take Back the Night.”

The event was aimed at raising awareness of sexual, domestic and other forms of abuse.

Ayriese Smith, vice president of the Women’s Alliance, said the event was a reclamation of nighttime for those who have been assaulted not just on campus, but elsewhere as well.

“One of our chants is ‘We have the right to not be afraid of the night,’” Smith said. “We have the right to be able to walk around our college campus and not be fearful. We have the right to be here and be safe.”

The theme for the night, “The Time to Act is Now,” came with an urgency for students who attended to begin being active in their fight against forms of abuse on campus.

“Each of us truly has the power to make difference,” Ashley Juskalian, president of Women’s Alliance, said.

Juskalian asked students to take out their phones and other devices to take images of the event and to tweet them to Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro. The goal: to raise awareness of understaffing in regards to Title IX on campus in regards to the Education Amendments of 1972.

Title IX is a part of the United States’ Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions, public or private, that receive federal funds. There is currently only one interim Title IX coordinator on staff at Fresno State.

Supporters of the night included organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Marjaree Mason Center, each with their own table with pamphlets and representatives giving information to interested students.

“I heard about [this event] two or three years ago when I took a [general education] women’s studies class,” Summer al-Hamdani, a fourth-year math and biomedical physics major, said. Al-Hamdani hoped to learn more from the different organizations during the night.

Other organizations also joined the event, such as Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which supported the Raging Grannies, a singing group. Together they sang humorous songs that were critical of comments made against women.

Nicole Linder, executive director of the Marjaree Mason Center, shared the story of Marjaree Mason as well as her own experiences as a Fresno State alumna.

Linder said domestic violence is an issue of control and that “there is no rush in life.” She asked attendees to take their time when it comes to being in relationships with other people.

The night culminated in a protest march, in which students walked around the campus to visit emergency poles.

If the night did anything for Elizabeth Castillo, a volunteer for the event and political science major, it was finding the courage to speak up about abuse.

“I just feel like people need to know about this issue and feel like they’re not alone,” Castillo said. “Before this I thought I was [alone], and now seeing these statistics really helps me feel like there’s a cause.”