I sat quietly in the dark, tears streaming down my face as her voice whispered in the blackness.
Her grandfather sexually abused her since she was a little girl. Today, when peers talk about losing their virginity, she lies.
But I was not mourning her, because, as she told her story for the first time, she took that giant leap from victim to acknowledged survivor. She was ready to live.
A large crowd of mostly women, and some men, packed the second floor ballroom of Plattsburgh State’s Angell College Center for Take Back the Night. Take Back the Night is an international event, as people gather and take to the streets to raise awareness about violence against women, share stories, some for the first time, and heal and grow as survivors.
Plattsburgh State students and their supporters were unable to hold the march in the streets this year. Plattsburgh’s Common Council approved it, but restricted it to the sidewalks, citing safety concerns and saying they never approved it for the streets in the past, although that is where it has taken place in the past, and with the assistance of local law enforcement.
I believe the group should have been allowed to march in the streets.
Women experience roughly 4.8 million intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes yearly, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
In 2006, 232,960 women in the United States were raped or sexually assaulted, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. That’s more than 600 women daily.
A survey conducted by the CDC in 2010 found that one in five women has been raped or has experienced an attempted rape, while one in six has been stalked and one in four has been beaten by their intimate partner.
Besides the horrific examples of abuse, there is a glaring societal tragedy occurring in the North Country in terms of enabling and ignorance.
Therapy Night Club and Sport Lounge hosted a Girls Gone Wild event last year, a clear example of the objectification of women and perverse glorification of a model of women too many young girls have damaged themselves physically and emotionally to mimic. Despite these realities, many in the North Country defended Girls Gone Wild and reverted to misogynistic cave-man like behavior, joking and commenting on the scantily clad women in ways some find acceptable, funny and harmless.
Meanwhile, a young woman walks down the street, minding her own business as a group of men cat-call and objectify her. That’s wrong for any woman to endure, but imagine if that woman had been victimized in the past and has difficulty walking by men, let alone ones who treat her like a meal.
Or, while some so-called adults make light of Girls Gone Wild posters, a young woman has locked herself in the bathroom and is making herself vomit so she can lose weight and fit into a bikini the way the media says she should.
Also sad is that city officials said last year’s police presence assisting Take Back the Night marchers was because the event coincided with Girls Gone Wild, which drew a big crowd. So I guess to garner support for a group working to save women’s lives you need to schedule alongside one that objectifies women.
Take Back the Night is needed and should have been allowed in the streets, because the situation is dire. Plus, those who shared their tragic stories were healing, and what an uplifting way to do it, taking to the streets, declaring your strength and demanding your safety.
I recall the first time I shared I had been sexually abused. How strong I would have felt to march in the streets beside survivors.
Further reasons it is an important event and should be held in the streets were the insensitive and ignorant comments made by the public through media outlets in response to local news articles. They clearly speak from the privilege of never enduring such pain and brutalization.
I recall one individual writing that Take Back the Night could be held in the streets as long as it didn’t make him late for dinner. It would do such individuals good to stop for such a march, get out of their vehicles, pay attention and take time out of their privileged days to listen to some stories of survivors.
Another comment has been made that by not marching on the sidewalk, or possibly choosing another route, and opting instead to hold Take Back the Night inside, the women were basically cry babies and sore losers.
I don’t know whether their decision was right or wrong. But I do know the men and women I saw that night were powerful and were not going to let men dictate how they held their celebration. They were bold and brilliant survivors living life on their terms.