By Zach Bailey and Nicole Girgen
Take Back the Night, an event dedicated to survivors of gender-based violence, was held by the women, gender, and sexuality studies senior capstone class at Winona State University on Tuesday, April 9.
The event was co-sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center and Winona State’s RE Initiative.
Though the event has been held on campus for multiple years, this year Take Back the Night underwent a series of changes to their typical program, including a move to downtown Winona’s Central Park.
Molly Sarbacker, a peer advocate and educator for RE Initiative on campus and three-year veteran of the event, explained the changes.
“By hosting it in the community, it gives community members an opportunity to be involved in this,” Sarbacker said. “We’re making it more community based, kind of the grown up version of what Take Back the Night used to be.”
Along with the change of location, this year’s event also discontinued the section where survivors share their stories.
“Last year was super emotional,” Sarbacker said. “In the past we have had the march, then everyone gathers in East Room and has ‘speak out,’ which gave anyone the opportunity to come forward and share their story. With all the emotions it brings a lot of triggers.”
According to Sarbacker, the class in charge of setting up the event decided to make this change in order to make the event more centered around healing rather than trauma.
“It’s been a great healing space, giving survivors the chance to share their story in an inclusive survivor- and trauma-centered space,” Sarbacker said. “I’m excited to see the changes without so much storytelling. This is a great night, but emotional.”
The night began with a group of speakers who were given the chance to either tell their story, or speak in support of the event.
Sydney Radler, senior social work major and co-president of Full Spectrum, Winona State’s gender and sexuality alliance club, was one of the speakers to tell their story during Take Back the Night.
“This is my fourth Take Back the Night, and I’ve spoken every year,” Radler said. “Every year I don’t think I’m gonna speak, but something comes up in me and I have to.”
Radler spoke about shame and Take Back the Night’s impact on the LGBT community.
Following speakers and musicians who discussed topics like violence against indigenous women and the importance of men speaking out, the group marched along Main Street and through downtown Winona.
The marchers received mixed reactions from community members, some honked horns in support and shook hands as they passed, others shouted obscenities from apartment windows.
Take Back the Night 2019 is now in the past, but the group is hosting events through the next week, including a “Healthy Masculinity Panel” on April 23.