College hosts first rally, march for sexual violence

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The chants rang through Franklin. 

“We fight to take back the night.” 

“Two, four, six, eight, no more date rape.” 

And the leading sign boldly proclaimed the marchers’ mission. 

“Take back the night. FC fights back.” 

The demonstration was a part of the college’s first Take Back the Night event on Thursday last week. 

Around 30 students, faculty and staff participated in the event’s rally, march and speak out sessions with the goal to bring awareness to ending sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence on campus. 

Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett and key college representatives, including Assistant Dean of Students for Student Involvement Keri Ellington and campus counselors John Shafer and Sara Kinder, were also in attendance. 

“We are here today to tell our campus and our community that we will not stand for sexual violence,” Kinder said when introducing the event. 

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Freshman Kinsley Castro and junior Alexis Bullock lead the march from campus to the Johnson County Courthouse. Photo by Max Bomber.

According to the website, Take Back the Night is an international event and a foundation with a mission to call attention to these issues, which are often made light of or dismissed as being issues around the world — especially for young people. Hundreds of events are held in more than 30 countries annually. 

One of the first Take Back the Night marches was in 1975 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after Susan Alexander Speeth was murdered, a young microbiologist who was stabbed to death walking home alone. 

The second, in 1976, was a protest in Belgium that was led by the women who marched together and held of candles in protest of violence against women in their country. 

The sentiment that first gripped the women and their allies in the 1970s is still alive at Franklin College through students who also had the chance to express their thoughts on the topic. 

Junior Abby Morris sang a rendition of “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga — a song that was written for the 2015 documentary film “The Hunting Ground,” which deals with campus rape in the United States — in honor of her friend who was a victim. 

Senior Evan Vernon gave a speech about how sexual violence hides in plain sight, even in the bed beside you or as you’re walking through campus. He also talked about action steps young men can take to combat this problem. 

At the end of the march, attendees had the chance to speak out and share their stories in a safe place, free from judgment and disrespect. 

But many of the students had been expressing themselves for the duration of the event, chanting while holding up handmade signs. 

“I heart consent.” 

“Consent is not sexy. It’s mandatory.” 

“You are not alone.” 

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