Clubs raise awareness of sexual assault

Erin Jones, Copy Editor

Two of Winona State University’s student clubs, Fight for Our Right’s and Gender Equality (FORGE) and the RE Initiative, hosted a Take Back the Night rally and speak-out for survivors of sexual assault.

The event took place Tuesday, April 17, starting with the rally and ending with the speak-out, to allow survivors as much time as they needed to tell their stories if they felt comfortable doing so.

Jennifer Manglos, one of the event’s organizers, elaborated on the original purpose of Take Back the Night.

“Take Back the Night has been organized for a few decades now,” Manglos said. “It was originally organized to bring public awareness to the issue of sexual assault, specifically happening to women.”

Karli Bly, who was also one of the event’s organizers, stated that Take Back the Night has developed a lot over the years.

“It’s been way more inclusive as time has gone on,” Bly explained. “People are recognizing that it’s not just a women’s issue – it happens to everybody and it’s not discriminatory because of who you are.”

In addition to bringing awareness to the issue of sexual assault, the organizers also designed the event to connect people to the resources they need if they have been a victim of sexual assault or know someone who has.

“A big part is making sure that the people who attended know what resources are available to them locally, nationally and about the RE Initiative on campus and the Women’s Resource Center in Winona,” Manglos said.

Bly added that these resources are important for everyone to know, not just victims and survivors of sexual assault.

“Having that information is important and it’s your job to share it because you don’t know who it happens to,” Bly said.

Manglos, who is the president of FORGE, and Bly, who is vice president, also emphasized the efforts put in by the RE Initiative as well.

“The RE Initiative provided us with some of the resources and materials, so we can publicize it more and make it more known how helpful they can be,” Bly said.

Manglos also explained the RE Initiative’s PACT (Prevent. Act. Challenge. Teach.) Training Program, which trains people to recognize situations that could lead to gender-based violence. 

“Teaching people not to be raped doesn’t work and teaching people not to rape doesn’t work,” Manglos said. “The most effective way to prevent rape is to have bystander intervention.”

Tamara Berg, a professor and the director of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Department as well as the faculty advisor to both FORGE and the RE Initiative, commented on the effort put in by her students to make the event a success.

“I think the organizers did a fabulous job of making the speak-out feel like a safe and inclusive space and I think the people who came and spoke were incredibly brave,” Berg said.

Berg also stated that for the survivors who spoke out about their sexual assaults for the first time have taken a major step forward in their healing process.

“I know that for a lot of survivors breaking their silence and speaking out is a way towards healing and recovery and I think that’s really powerful,” Berg said.

Though speaking out is a big step for survivors in order to move forward, it is also important to rally those voices to move towards ending gender-based violence on college campuses.

“I have been working on gender-based violence issues at Winona State for 20 years and I’ve been working to support survivors and change campus culture,” Berg explained. “I think the university needs to be accountable to the experiences that students have shared and so I appreciate those voices to make our institution better.”

Though change on college campuses is not going to happen overnight, every little step makes a difference and FORGE and the RE Initiative already have plans in place for the 2018-2019 school year.

In addition to planning next year’s Take Back the Night event, Bly hopes that FORGE can create magnets to give to incoming students and transfers during Welcome Week.

Bly said “that’s one thing we’re planning is making those and making sure that information is splattered everywhere, so it’s unavoidable.”