Standing up against violence

Take Back the Night event to empower survivors

“So many times as a survivor we know in our head that we are not alone, but that doesn’t necessarily get us to move,” Tracy Howard said, her voice strong and sincere.

Howard, Ferris senior in social work and member of the Social Work Association, is not only a supporter for survivors of domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual assault, but also a survivor herself.

Her past has given her the passion to stand up and reach out to people who have experienced similar situations. She has taken on the role and responsibility to be the head of putting on the annual event Take Back the Night, which is designed to empower survivors of domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual assault.

This year’s event will be a four-day long experience for faculty, staff, students and community members alike.

“All of the events are set up to have survivors tell their stories and to get the information out there. We’re kind of starting off small and ending big on the last night,” Howard said. “We’re hoping that it’s going to open up eyes that it’s not just in big cities we hear about this, but it happens in our small, little communities, too.”

Madison Dauer-Howell, Ferris freshman in early childhood education, thinks showing the significance and awareness of these issues is something all students and community members should grasp.

“It’s something that affects a lot of people,” Dauer-Howell said. “The more that people know about these types of issues, the more it can be stopped. I think it’s kind of overlooked on campus. I think if someone were to bring it up, then it’s a big deal. Other than that, it’s not really talked about.”

Some of the events included in the Take Back the Night series are The Clothesline Project, a candlelight vigil, a mock graveyard, a march and a keynote, five-star event speaker.

“I think the event that will be the most empowering is, The Clothesline Project,” Howard said.

Survivors or someone who is a supporter of a survivor can write on a shirt what they have been through and what it feels like to be a survivor, Howard explained.

“It’s really a first step for some survivors in having their voice be heard, and it will be displayed at the speaking engagement [on Thursday] to let people know this is here on campus. It happens here.”

The Clothesline Project will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday, Nicole Bromley, the founder and CEO of OneVoice Enterprises, will be speaking in Williams Auditorium at 7:30 p.m., following a march beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the IRC connector.

“Both the march and the speaker will be used to provide an opportunity for anyone to take a stand against the violence that happens within our community,” Howard said.

According to Howard, last year’s event had about 300 participants. This year the Social Work Association, who is responsible for planning the events, is anticipating nearly 500 people to attend. The increase of attendees is expected due to the reach into the Big Rapids community.

“We wanted to make sure we connected with the Big Rapids community because it’s not just Ferris that’s affected by this, it’s both of us,” Howard said. “Even if there is only one or two survivors’ lives that these events change—and changes them to where they can start talking about what they experienced and start healing from that—that’s totally worth everything that we are doing because that’s what it is about.”