Students marched across campus to "Take Back the Night" at Niagara University.

Hundreds of Niagara University students, faculty, and staff were joined by members of the community on March 30, 2023, to "Take Back the Night." The annual event, now in its sixth year, aims to end gender-based violence in all forms, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Local organizations offered information and resources at tables in the university’s Gallagher Center gym before a program that included remarks by the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president; Dr. Debra Colley, NU’s executive vice president; and Emily Pike, director of the university’s Office of Violence Prevention & Education.

Featured speaker Tayrin Tapia shared her story as a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of a family member. Tapia, founder of Dear Tayrin, Inc., an organization established in 2012 to raise awareness of sexual abuse while empowering those victimized, encouraged the audience to listen to the stories of victims.

“It’s important to have a support system, because it shows us that we’re not alone,” she said. “Maybe others may not have gone through it, maybe the person next to you has not gone through it, but their support means the world to us. They’re there with you to show you that you’re not alone. My story started when I was five, but I didn’t let it define me once I knew where the power was. That the power was in my voice, that the power was in showing what I had to do for others in order for them to heal. When I started, it was just a matter of saving one life, and if I can help one life, that’s what meant the world to me because I know what it means to be in that darkness, I know how it feels to feel like it’s never-ending and you can’t get through it. But you can. You can, and you will.”

During a brief award ceremony, Christopher Sheffield, vice president for Student Affairs, received the Excellence in Leadership and Advocacy Award, and senior Abigail Ross, a criminal justice and criminology major, was honored with the Nicholas Albano Student Advocacy Award. The award is named for a former student leader who passed away unexpectedly in 2017 after battling epilepsy.

The event also included a performance of “This Is Me,” by the 2023 Take Back the Night choir, directed by Dr. Bridget Moriarty, assistant professor of theatre, and concluded with a student march and a candlelight vigil in the Castellani Art Museum.

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Dr. Dana L. Radatz, Emily Pike, and Dr. Jennifer E. Beebe

“Take Back the Night is an opportunity to come together as a community to listen, reflect, and advocate for survivors and their families. This event is a true reflection of the Vincentian values at Niagara University,” said Emily Pike, director of the OVPE. The event was established at NU through the efforts of Dr. Jennifer E. Beebe, associate professor of counseling, and Dr. Dana L. Radatz, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice.

Several agencies and organizations from the local community partnered and participated in the event. This year’s featured TBTN community partner was the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier, the certified provider of confidential crisis counseling for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Niagara County. Among the organization’s numerous crisis service programs is a 24-hour crisis hotline staffed by trained professionals who provide an immediate response to assault victims.

Niagara’s OVPE office is a one-stop shop for campuswide violence prevention programming, such as bystander intervention, advocacy, victim services, trainings, and awareness events surrounding dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (DVDVSAS).

“The OVPE signifies a commitment to prevention and education efforts on sexual and relationship violence on our college campus. We hope to lead the way in fostering a cultural shift that results in the next generation of advocates and leaders ensuring a safer campus and local community,” said Pike.

Take Back the Night (TBTN) is a nonprofit charity with the mission of ending sexual violence in all forms, including sexual assault, sexual abuse, dating violence, and domestic violence. TBTN empowers survivors in the healing process and has hosted events throughout the world for over 50 years.

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