Omega Phi Beta hosts Take Back the Night

553

If you're a woman in college, there's a one in four chance that you'll be raped.
 There's an even greater chance that it will happen to someone you know.
This week, the sisters of Omega Phi Beta sorority organized and participated in Illumination Week: a week dedicated to women's empowerment and the rights of those otherwise oppressed.  The events during the week covered topics of women's rights, homophobia and sexual assault. Wednesday's Take Back the Night event had the biggest turnout in the event's history, with about 60 people joining together for a march on campus.
Sophomore Asucena Lopez, a member of Omega Phi Beta sorority and organizer for the event, had strong hopes for what this event would bring to DePauw.
"I'm hoping that people really realize that sexual assault is real. Sexual assault happens and that it is our time to do something," Lopez said. "It's our turn to take a stand."
Take Back the Night is an event at hundreds of colleges and it takes a stand against sexual violence. The organization has been around for decades and at DePauw for the past few years. The event included a march to spread awareness and provided a chance for survivors and allies to share their stories.
This year, the event had large support from the DePauw community and was co-sponsored by the Association of African American Students, AAPI Initiative, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Tau Omega, Committee of Latino Concerns, Delta Gamma, Delta Sigma Theta, FIJI, Kappa Kappa Gamma, LACE, Lambda Sigma Upsilon, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Beta Phi, and Sigma Lambda Gamma. 
The atmosphere of the event with the support of over 15 organizations showed just how encouraging the DePauw community can be.  Junior Amanda Stephens, a member of Alpha Phi sorority, could really feel the sense of unity. 
"[This event] really does make me feel more connected to DePauw," Stephens said. "Anytime when a bunch of organizations, be it greek or not greek, get together to do something that they believe in, really does connect us as a campus."
The event began with poster making in the Union Building Ballroom. Students created posters with anti-rape slogans to prepare for their walk around campus. Organizers handed out supplies, helped with poster suggestions and passed out cards with chants that would be used later. During this time, students began conversations amongst themselves, discussing the imminent rally. One senior, Jordan Davis, found this event thought-provoking. 
"I think this sparks conversation, it sparks a movement to change and embrace woman empowerment: the ability to walk around campus and communities and feel safe and know that you have someone who supports you and is looking out for you," Davis said. "DePauw is a place of conversation, and this is a conversation that needs to be had."
In the room, many other students shared Davis's sentiments. Junior Katie Tozer expressed that she felt that these programs really helped to change the culture. 
"I think it makes it something we can talk about, whereas if we didn't have events like this, people wouldn't talk about these issues," Tozer said. "I'm not sure if it really makes a big difference but it's something people talk about and that's a big first step."
This past year, DePauw has sponsored many sexual assault and violence awareness events such as DePauw Get's Graphic and the Green Dot Bystander Intervention program. Whether or not these programs truly change rape culture is debatable, but according to a recent email from Angie Nally, director of Public Safety, sexual violence on campus is taking a shift.
Compared to 2010, DePauw saw a decrease last year by four reported cases of rape. Lopez felt that these awareness events played a role in the decline. 
"I think that we're becoming a little more aware," Lopez said, "and that we're really starting to take this is an issue that DePauw is really taking seriously."
But junior Stephen Shannon feels jaded about the skits he remembers seeing as a first-year in DePauw Gets Graphic.
"Don't deal in hypotheticals," Shannon said, "If you really want to create a dialogue, do it with people who are victims so that they could use their stories to help others as opposed to the skits."
At 5:45 p.m., the group gathered their posters and rounded up at Bowman Park. Armed with a megaphone, the group began chanting "no means no" and "yes means yes" as they made their way through campus, demanding justice immediately. The group walked down Anderson Street, past residence halls and greek chapter houses, with a voice that grew stronger and more unified with each word. Students passed around the megaphone to lead various chants. First-year Jazzkia Jones held the megaphone and asked supporters to "make some noise" for their class. The crowd responded showing a united group, with nearly equal representation and support from all of the classes.
The rally extended into the Greencastle community as they walked through the square before heading back towards campus, where the group met in a circle in front of Roy O. West Library. Once assembled, Lopez asked the group to take a few deep breaths and reflect on the event and its impact. 
"Right now, we are loud, but we aren't always so vocal on the subject."  Lopez said, as she urged the group to keep the momentum from the rally and continue to be supportive of the cause. Lopez then yielded the floor for people to share their stories about how sexual violence has impacted them.
Senior Yechan Hong likes the idea behind the rally but feels that the concept should go beyond just chanting a message to the public.
"When you're going out and chanting about a problem that is a one-way communication where people who have an idea about something express their opinions." Hong said.
Instead Hong believes things would be more effective if people heard the stories of survivors so there could be dialogue to come to a neutral understanding.
The group met Lopez's urge for continuing support of this cause with agreement. Sophomore Nicole Darnall felt that a community like DePauw really needed to hear the message of Take Back the Night. 
"It's easy for something like this to happen and people to want to hide [rape] to protect people because it is such a small community and everyone knows everybody." Darnall said. "It needs to be addressed that it's okay to say 'no,' and it's okay to have an issue with what happened the night before, and it's okay to tell someone."