May 30, 2020
Audience members listening to spreakers share their stories about sexual assault during the Take Back the Night event held in the Peace Garden on Fresno State Campus on Tuesday; Oct; 15; 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/ The Collegian)

Sexual assault survivors ‘Take Back the Night’ at Fresno State

Fresno State held its 40th annual Take Back the Night event on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, which drew in a crowd of about 100 people who listened to 12 survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse share their stories. 

Take Back the Night was put on by the Cross Cultural and Gender Center (CCGC) to raise awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence. The event started at 4:30 p.m. and ended at 9 p.m. It started in the Satellite Student Union (SSU), where tabling and programming occurred, and ended in the Peace Garden, where there was an open mic for survivors to tell their own stories. 

“Just listening to the stories of the victims makes me really want to do something to the system,” said Shoua Yang, an audience member at the event.

In addition to the survivors’ stories, the Raging Grannies from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom performed three songs; Mindy Kates, the survivor advocate on campus, spoke and Shawna Irissarri from the Women’s Alliance and CCGC gave a presentation on the changes she wants to see in the future to create a safer community at Fresno State.

“It has come to my attention that not everyone on this campus feels entirely safe,” Irissarri said. “Whether it’s poor lighting in dark parking lots, emergency lights that don’t work or reporting procedures that fail to support survivors, we need to have an open and honest discussion about our campus’ crime statistics.”

In recognition of the continued work that needs to be done in terms of campus safety measures, attendees of Take Back the Night gathered outside the SSU and marched to the Peace Garden, where chairs were set up in front of the Jane Addams statue. 

Marchers chanted phrases like: “women unite, take back the night,” “whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no” and “love doesn’t hurt.” They also carried signs stating: “take back the night” and “consent is sexy, and required.”

Those who were willing to share their stories in the Peace Garden were given flowers with motivational and supportive statements attached to them. They were also awarded with medallions from Dakota Draconi, co-founder of Breaking the Silence and a survivor of sexual violence. 

Breaking the Silence is a non-profit organization that raises awareness of child abuse. They partnered with Fresno State’s Women’s Alliance, CCGC, P.O.W.E.R. and Associated Students, Inc. in order to put on the event.

There were other community partners involved, including Ignite, the Marjaree Mason Center, Rape Counseling Services of Fresno, Trans-E-Motion and the Wholistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center.

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