30 Years of Taking Back the Night

By Jamie Rhodes

29-Mar-17 57WICHITA - A few years ago, Gia (not her real name) met a guy, hung out a few of times, then had him over to watch a movie, to which, he made more and more sexual advances toward her. She began to feel uncomfortable and asked him to leave. He refused and kept insisting they have sex.
    In a moment of defeat, awkwardness, and pure annoyance, she unwillingly succumbed to his pleading advances, despite her telling him “no,” just to get him to leave. Many woman may share this similar experience, but are too afraid to call it for what it is: RAPE.

    With this incident weighing on her mind, she drank more heavily. A few months later, Gia was walking drunk downtown, until she was picked up by four men and taken back to a house. Most of her night was blurry and in the morning, she called a friend to come get her.
    Her friend insisted on taking her to the emergency room after she kept complaining of pelvic pain. She doesn’t know exactly what happened to her that evening, but there was some major bruising on her cervix. While at the ER, she was visited by the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center. Believing this incident was her fault because of her poor decisions, she did not press charges. Years later, she still finds it hard to call it for what it was: RAPE.
    Gia, and many other women (and men), may feel like their story is an isolated incident, until they find others who share commonalities. That is the purpose of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center (WASAC).
    “It’s not unusual for drugs and alcohol to be used as a tool against a victim,” says Kathy Williams, Executive Director at WASAC. She estimates a national rate of 50-80% of sexual assaults go unreported. In 2016, WASAC saw 2,225 people in relation to sexual victimization. This number includes people they saw at any stage of their healing process. 600 of those people were friends and family of survivors.
    WASAC responded to the ER 462 times (includes children, teens, and adults). One of the many resources available at the WASAC are therapeutic programs for children and adults of victims and their families, such as “Take Back the Night.”
    “Take Back the Night” is an evening of survival celebration for victims and a space of reflection for the community. It’s free and open to the public. Mary Stolz-Newton, Director of Survival Services at WASAC says, “It’s a chance for the community to come together and be together to meet other survivors who want to share bits of their story, or the healing process, and how sexual violence has affected them, while providing a safe and supportive environment.”
    The event is on April 28 in the Festival Plaza at Exploration Place starting at 6:30pm with food trucks, live music, t-shirt sales, and a display of Survivor Art. The rally starts at 8pm and consists of five survivor speakers and three poets. At 8:30, the reflection march begins. Supporters will march to the 2nd Street bridge and end by the Keeper of the Plains. Along the walk, volunteers will hold display boards so people can read pieces of stories from survivors.
    “After the march, for those who were encouraged by the speakers and need extra time to process through, and time to share their story in a safe place, they may stay for the Candlelight Survivor Circle,” Stolz-Newton said. “We typically average 200-300 people, but we’re hoping for a lot more since it’s the 30th anniversary.”
    If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault and you need someone to talk to, call the WASAC hotline 24/7 at (316) 263-3002. l

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Marcia McCoy, Ph.D.


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