For three hours on Tuesday night, more than 300 Concordia students and athletes came together to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic abuse.

Take Back the Night Executive Director Katie Koestner

Led by Concordia’s Psychology Club and Psychology 101 students, the event, called Take Back the Night, featured devotions, panelist discussions and an impactful march designed to spur conversation on a topic that plagues universities and individuals nationwide.

A highlight of the evening was a keynote address delivered by Katie Koestner, the executive director of the national Take Back the Night effort. Billed as the first woman in the US to speak out nationally and publicly about being the victim of campus “date” rape, Koestner speaks annually to more than 8,000 peoplemostly on college campusesto share her horrific experience.

On Tuesday night, she again shared with the Concordia community her personal experience as the victim of sexual assault and described how it kick-started her career with Take Back the Night.

“If not for a few hours of my life, I would not be here with you,” Koestner told an engrossed CUW audience. “It is that thing [my rape experience] that will make me get on a plane and get one hour, half an hour, no hours of sleep to come and address students like you.”

The idea for the event started with psychology professor Tracy Tuffey, said Rebecca Hasbani, CUW’s head psychology mentor and an intern with Lakeshore Regional Advocacy Center, a community partnership that works to combat child abuse. 

“A lot of people are afraid to talk about this topic,” said Hasbani. “We want to open opportunities to help people in need and reduce those situations.”

The event’s organizers aimed to make the subject relevant to the Concordia community by performing scenarios of sexual assault and domestic violence. Audience members shared their opinions through an online quiz and a panel of six community leaders then weighed in on the scenes through their respective lenses of expertise.

The panelists included Assistant District Attorney Abbey DeSiato, Dean of Student Steven Gerner, Sexual Violence Victim Services Director Mary Knetter, CEO and Founder of LOTUS Legal Clinic Rachel Monaco-Wilcox, and Officer Kirstin Moertl of the City of Port Washington Police Department. Amanda Didier of the Lakeshore Regional Advocacy Center moderated the discussion.

The event concluded with a march through the halls of CUW, lined by t-shirts decorated with the dialogue of those afflicted by sexual assault and domestic violence and encouragement for survivorsOnce students reached the chapel hallway, the procession continued in silence into the chapel itself.

The night also included an original song written and performed by student Ellie Woodman, devotions led by Associate Campus Pastor Doug Bender and Campus Ministry Assistant Darcy Paape, and a video address from Concordia President Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, PhD.

Those involved in planning the event say they hope it will bring people together in the fight against sexual assault and domestic violence. In her address, Koestner said her hope is that events like the one Concordia hosted will support the survivors and end the problem.

At the end of her portion of the event, she encouraged all in attendance to “speak up, speak out, speak loudly. Nothing ever changes with silence.”

Original song by CUW student Ellie Woodman

— Madelyne Arrigoni is a senior studying English, Mass Communications, and Photography. She plans to graduate in 2022.

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