Local colleges and universities partner to help sexual assault survivors ‘take back the night’

FLINT, Michigan — The statistics are startling: one in three women, one in six men, and two in three transgender people experience sexual assault worldwide. In partnership with Mott Community College, Kettering University, and the Greater Flint YWCA, UM-Flint is hosting a Take Back the Night event on Wednesday, April 12 at 6 p.m. The event begins at the University Pavilion and includes a march, rally, and remembrance vigil.

Aimed to provide sexual assault survivors an opportunity to share their stories, heal, and come together, the event coincides with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

Samara Hough, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality at UM-Flint says the event is part of a worldwide effort. “It is an event that will bring together survivors who have experienced sexual assault, and those who are supporters of survivors. It’s an opportunity for them to share their experiences in an outward way. Often, abusers will really coerce survivors to be silent about what they’ve experienced, so this is an opportunity to be able to share what has happened to them, and give them that autonomy to really be free from that.”
Samara Hough.
Therapists will be present to provide assistance and guidance for those in attendance. The annual event has happened for a few years, says Hough, although this year, they are trying something new. 

“What we’ve changed is the way that we’ve made the platform available, so it’s not only a direct account or retelling of the story, but also utilizing the arts,” she says, “whether it be a song they’d like to sing that gives them a sense of healing, or sharing a poem. We will also have staff available to read those expressions of survivorship on behalf of survivors. Oftentimes, talking about those things can be very triggering for folks, so we want to have an opportunity to provide space for folks to facilitate that type of support and healing in the space through these artistic expressions.”

The night kicks off with a march, rallying together for increased awareness of sexual assault. “We will march down Saginaw Street, up to the Greater Flint YWCA, and the Director Michelle Rosynsky will share words as well,” says Hough. “We’ll march back to the campus and participate in the artist show, partnering with I Found my Voice, Cherisse Bradley’s group. There will be dance performances, testimonials, and spoken word by alum Frankie McIntosh.”

Last year’s event brought out around 40-50 people, but prior years before COVID brought 400-500 people. Hough is hoping for more local residents of all ages to experience the collective sense of healing together. 

“This event allows us to come together, and be open about some of these challenges that have been impacting us,” she says. “Our hope is to build community around it, highlight these struggles, to unite as a community, reclaim that sense of safety, and also a commitment to support survivors, and believing survivors who come forward.”

All ages are welcome to participate in the event. Students can register through Campus Connections, but it is not required. Interested artists can submit physical art for display, songs, or poetry for the event here
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.