Sexual assault, domestic abuse and other forms of violence are often hidden from the public eye.

But a community initiative centered at Franklin College will shine a spotlight on the issue.

Campus organizers have planned a Take Back the Night rally on April 13 to bring awareness to the problem of violence in the county. The event will feature remarks from students, representatives from sexual violence support agencies and local officials, followed by a march to the Johnson County Courthouse and a group sharing experience.

The rally is a chance to bring the college and entire Franklin community together to address the issue, said Dr. John Shafer, director of counseling at Franklin College.

“The whole focus is to protest and direct action against rape and other forms of violence,” he said. “The college has made a concerted effort to re-examine our policy and our proactive stance on sexual violence. Franklin has been proactive before, but we have to stay sharp in regards of being aware.”

Take Back the Night is a national campaign designed to create safe communities and draw attention to the problem of sexual, domestic and physical violence. The events and demonstrations are popular on college campuses, though this will be the first time Franklin College will host it.

The college’s Take Back the Night effort is sponsored by its counseling center, which has upped its effort to make students and the Franklin community in general more aware of violence in society, Shafer said.

“It’s a worldwide way to show support for victims of violence,” Shafer said.

Ashley Watkins, the patient advocate for the ASSIST trauma support program at Johnson Memorial Health, had experience with Take Back the Night as a student at St. Mary’s College. When she moved to Franklin, she reached out to Franklin College about forming a chapter locally.

She worked with Sara Kinder, a counselor at the college, to establish a Take Back the Night program.

“In this community, maybe some of the issues of violence, people aren’t aware of it. Take Back the Night is a great opportunity for people to come together and get a better idea of what’s happening,” Watkins said. “It’s important for everyone to come together and support it, so we can make other people aware that it’s important as well.”

Students and staff at Franklin College have planned the event, which will gather everyone involved at the college’s Napolitan Student Center for remarks from Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett, student leader Evan Vernon and others involved in advocacy for victims of violence.

Participants will then walk as a group to the center of downtown Franklin in a visual display of support for victims. Back on campus, everyone will gather in a quiet room for a Speak Out experience, allowing anyone who wants to share an experience of violence in their own lives.

“It will be a therapeutic way to say, ‘This happened to me, to my family, to my partner, and I want to be an advocate to change our world to be less violent and hurtful to others,’” Shafer said.

If you go

Take Back the Night

What: A community demonstration and rally to bring awareness to the problem of sexual, domestic and physical violence.

When: 6 p.m. April 13

Where: Meet at the atrium of the Napolitan Student Center.

Who can participate: The event is open to the public.

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.