FMU prepares to march against sexual assault

Mary Knuckles , Staff Writer

FMU Gender Studies, the Honors Program and the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault will hold their first Take Back the Night event from 7-9 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Forest Villas Apartments.

FMU student Anna Patton, a leading member of the Take Back The Night organizing committee, said the event shares its name with an anti-violence organization.

“It is a nonprofit organization that helps fund peaceful protest to raise awareness for domestic violence, sexual assault, abuse and harassment,” Patton said.

Over 30 countries participate in the event, holding hundreds of events each year. Suzanne Barnett, assistant professor of English, modern languages and philosophy, and a member of the event’s organizing committee, said she wants FMU’s take on the event to be fun and provide solidarity.

Barnett said attendees will meet at the apartments, then march through campus to the water fountain outside of the Cauthen Educational Media Center. She said the event will have speakers such as members of the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault.  Attendees will be given candles to symbolically light up the night. Some attendees will put on performances, read poetry and tell stories. There will also be music, candy and snacks.

“This entire thing is based on empowerment,” Barnett said. “It’s going to be part celebration and part information disseminating, like how we at FMU want to help you and show you how you can get in touch with services here on campus. We want to reach out to you, but we won’t know if something is wrong unless you tell us.”

The first Take Back the Night event held in the United States was in Philadelphia in 1975 in response to hate crimes against women, with the mission to end sexual and domestic violence. On that day, women marched the streets with candles, peacefully protesting.

“What we’re doing now at Francis Marion is that we have been inspired by them to hold our own,” Patton said.

Pamela Rooks, professor of English, said society believes that only women are victims of sexual violence, even though men are victims as well. She said that each instance of sexual violence is different, and that people’s individual reactions determine the proper way to handle the situation.

“Everybody reacts to assault differently,” Rooks said. “One of the purposes of Take Back the Night isn’t just for solidarity but to reinforce this idea that it is both very personal what happens to you, and it is very unique. However, it’s a social problem and a cultural problem, not just in America.”

“I’m so proud that many members of our FMU community want to get involved in our Take Back the Night event,” Patton said.