The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

April 10, 2014

In Our Opinion: 'Take Back the Night' sends needed message

The Daily Star

---- — One of the first “Take Back the Night” marches was organized in Philadelphia in 1975 in response to the murder of a young woman. Today, according to the Take Back the Night Foundation’s website, the organization supports “eliminating sexual violence, in all forms, and thousands of colleges, universities, women’s centers, and rape crisis centers have sponsored events all over the country.” 

It would be easy to believe that women who live in the Oneonta area are well-insulated against sexual assault and violent crime. After all, the Oneonta Police Department only received two reports in 2013 of women being assaulted by an unknown assailant. 

But attacks by strangers are only part of the picture that “Take Back the Night” is trying to paint. More than 200 cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and violent crime were reported in Otsego County last year. 

And what about the ones that weren’t reported?

“We visit victims in the hospital and they don’t want the police involved because they don’t want to be blamed, or they’re scared, or because we live in such a small community and they’re afraid of the consequences.”

That was how Will Rivera, program director of Opportunities for Otsego’s Violence Intervention Program, described some local victims of domestic violence. Rivera said his agency’s Violence Intervention Program fielded more than 1,000 calls in 2013 and provided more than 2,000 counseling sessions for victims. 

Sexual and domestic violence can happen anywhere. These crimes are not unique to any geographic area, to any income level, to any race or class. They are, sadly, universal. 

Tonight, a group of people will gather in Oneonta to speak up for those victims who are unwilling, or unable, to speak for themselves — to take back a small part of what was taken from them. 

“Take Back the Night” is a counterpoint to the idea that women should be fearful, that women should see themselves as potential victims. It shouts “no” to anyone who would blame a victim of sexual assault for how she dressed, what she drank or where she was. It offers support to those who have been assaulted, and it says, as Rivera explained, that we as a community will not accept abuse. 

“We’re there to empower (victims),” Rivera said. 

We commend Rivera’s program, SUNY Oneonta, Hartwick College and Family Planning of South Central New York for partnering to sponsor the local “Take Back the Night” event. And we encourage everyone who have been victims of sexual assault or domestic violence to find the courage to raise their voices rather than being silent. We hope this event will help reinforce the fact that crimes like this do not just hurt individual women; they diminish us all as a community.