Annual march seeks to assist every woman in need of healing

Most people wouldn’t admit to being afraid of the dark, but it is a rare occasion to see a woman walking by herself in the middle of the night. There is something about that time that can be frightening. This is especially true for those who have been victims of rape and sexual abuse.

Gannon University’s Center for Social Concerns, in collaboration with many others, will sponsor Take Back the Night at 7 p.m. on April 2 as a way to combat this fear for victims of rape and sexual abuse. The evening will consist of a march to various symbolic places, such as Perry Square and Gannon University.

Jessie Badach Hubert, associate director for the Center for Social Concerns, is in charge of coordinating the march.

“It can be easy to feel afraid, particularly at night when violence often occurs,” she said. “Take Back the Night can be a great chance for victims of violence to stand up against what has happened to them.”

Take Back the Night is part of an international organization, but Gannon has held it annually for several years. The event acts as a response against assault, which combats the fearfulness of the dark by walking with candlelight. This is one of the biggest annual events in Erie, supported by funding and participation from many local organizations, including the City of Erie, the Crime Victim Center, the Erie County district attorney’s office, Erie-GAINS and SafeNet.

The evening will begin at Perry Square with opening remarks from Linda Fleming, Ph.D, followed by the distribution of candles and a time for people to share personal stories. Afterward, there will be a walk around Perry Square and guest speakers who will talk about trafficking, victim’s rights, how to seek counseling and legal rights. The event will close in Yehl Ballroom with speaker Katie Allison, who is the violence prevention coordinator at Gannon.

Hubert said the demographics in attendance usually consist of faith-sharing groups, ministry and women. Groups attending this year’s march will include the Sisters of Mercy, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Erie County, the Erie County Health Department and The Ophelia Project, among others. But Hubert said the list of participants doesn’t have to end there.

“We are always interested in men to come out to show their support for these women and the other women in their lives,” she said.

The Center for Social Concerns has always received positive feedback about Take Back the Night. Hubert noted that people usually mention that the event is a very peaceful and solemn night, but also that it’s a good chance for people to also speak out. She said the personal stories that are shared are not only powerful for the speaker, but they are powerful for the audience.

For more information about Take Back the Night, visit the Center for Social Concerns in the Waldron Campus Center.

KHADIJA DJELLOULI

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