Breaking Through

Take Back the Night brings together survivors, friends

Standing on the wooden stage with her eyes full of passion, a young woman’s voice trembled as she told her story. “He was once so much more to me than a rapist.” Two friends flanked her, sharing similar stories of hurt. The pair recited excerpts from “In Love’s Service,” a play the University of Kentucky students wrote in just 24 hours. It wove together their own experiences with those of other abuse victims.

Hundreds gathered under the waving American and Kentucky flags outside the Warren County Justice Center to “Take Back the Night.” They marched in honor of friends, family and themselves as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The three women in the band Just Us blanketed the background with acoustic folk songs, and a face silently screamed the shattered words “Break the Silence” from the fronts of supporters’ new green-and-white T-shirts.

“We are here because we are tired of family and friends being victimized,” declared Amy Hogue, the event’s coordinator. She stood proudly from the makeshift stage set up in a parking lot, revving up the crowd’s energy. Marchers checked their shoelaces and readied themselves to take to the streets.

No age, race, gender – or species – defined the marchers.  Whole families stood together in the parking lot, pushing toddlers in strollers and leading leashed dogs.

Signs were scattered through the throng of demonstrators:

“Many voices breaking silence. Demand an end to sexual violence.”

“Raise your voice.”

“Stop sexual assault.”

Snaking through the streets of downtown, they zigzagged past businesses and curious pedestrians. The old courthouse fence and the front door of the United Way office donned green ribbons, displaying their support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Restaurant servers stood on the front stoop of the Bistro on College Street as the crowd moved by, silently watching and listening to the marchers’ chants.

“Two, four, six, eight! No more hate; no more rape!”

Blue lights from the the Bowling Green Police Department led the throng through town as it kept a steady pace for the mile-long walk spanning the width of the streets – victims, survivors, supporters, families and friends. With statistics that say as many as 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males will be victims, everyone knows someone.

“I know too many of my friends who have been victims,” Hogue said. “It’s why I have the passion that I do.”

A guitar greeted the marchers with “No Woman, No Cry” as they came around the final bend of the walk. At the end, they gathered close before the stage and listened to the heartfelt poems of victims, who hoped that by bearing their souls, someone else could find hope.

Lori Pickett came with her sorority, Omega Phi Alpha. The event touched the Western Kentucky University junior, who said she believed it was necessary to give a voice to victims.  “I wish everyone could see what a big crisis this is. Statistics are just assumptions. There are so many victims out there.”

As dusk arrived, candles made their way into the hands of the participants. Each protecting their own flame against the breeze, they passed the light from one person to the next until the entire area was soft with candlelight.  “As one, we can win,” Hogue said from the stage.

Pat Blewett said that as a physician, she knew the abuse they were trying so hard to bring to light happened far too often. Over the past 20 years, many victims came to her office who were suffering either physically, mentally or emotionally, she said.

“Frozen. Shh. Trying to tell myself if I stay still, maybe he will stop.” Santana Berry said, reciting her part in the play.

“If I tell them, would they ever believe me?”