Four County Take Back the Night will be held Saturday in Swanton as part of a national movement promoting an end to violence against women. Scheduled between 6 p.m. and approximately 9 p.m. at The Dwelling Place, 131 E. Airport Hwy., the event is in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Organized by the YWCA HOPE Rape Crisis Center in Toledo and the Center for Child and Family Advocacy/Family Justice Center in Wauseon, Four County Take Back the Night “is about empowering women,” said Keri Black, program manager for the HOPE Rape Crisis Center. “Victims of violence, victims of any crimes across the board, when they come together they feel empowered because they know they’re not alone. Take Back the Night is for victims to take back what has been taken from them.”
The event will begin with a fair featuring about 20 resources and vendors from Fulton, Henry, Defiance, and Williams counties. Most will be from agencies that serve victims of domestic and sexual violence in the community, and a few will represent women-owned businesses. Because it’s a family-friendly event, there will be art activities to keep children busy as their parents peruse the booths.
After the fair, local young adult author Heather Pederson will present a short program explaining what community members can do to support victims of violence. “It will be a call to action explaining why we’re there,” Black said.
That will be followed by a 30- to 60-minute march beginning and ending at the entrance to Swanton Memorial Park. Participants will march through surrounding neighborhoods representing women subjected to violence in the community and those who lost their lives to it.
Kim Rosales, a full-time victim advocate for the Center for Child and Family Advocacy/Family Justice Center, said the march is a representation of women empowering themselves. “It’s like a visual of taking back the night. Women should be able to walk the street alone and not be afraid in their own communities,” she said.
The march is also to show the survivors that the community stands in solidarity with them, Black said.
Four County Take Back the Night will conclude at The Dwelling Place with a candlelight vigil honoring women in the community who have lost their lives to violence. Weather permitting, it will be held outdoors, and family members of victims will be encouraged to state their loved ones’ names.
Participants who may experience emotional reactions to the proceedings will have access to trained advocates, labeled “safe people,” who will provide crisis intervention.
Black said Take Back the Night was introduced to the four-county area last year because “violence against women can and does happen everywhere.” In rural areas, however, many victims live with violence in silence.
“There’s more of a stigma, and everyone in small rural places tend to know everyone,” she said. Consequently, victims remain silent rather than risk accepting help from someone they know.
Victims may also decide to stay quiet because “they feel a lot of blame and shame for what happened to them, so they’re ashamed to come forward,” Black added. “We want to have this event to show victims there’s nothing wrong with coming forward.”
The inaugural event was held last year at Four County Community Center. It will move to a new location each year.
“We want to make sure that all corners of the four-county area are represented,” Black said.
Last year’s event attracted 40 people, and more are expected this year as organizations formed to support murder victim Sierah Joughin plan to participate. Sheila Vaculik, Joughin’s mother, will attend to advocate “Sierah’s Law,” legislation proposed to establish a centralized violent offender’s data base for law enforcement.
There will also be a representative present for “Keep Our Girls Safe,” an organization started by Joughin’s boyfriend, Joshua Kolasinski.
“This year, it’s been overwhelmingly amazing how much community support we’ve gotten,” Black said. She expressed gratitude to Pastors Andrea and Ruben Villanueva for use of The Dwelling Place and to Barb Kovacs-Neubury for supplying water and snacks.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.