Postermaking and “The Clothesline Project,” a collection of T-shirts with messages to raise awareness of domestic and sexual violence, were part of Niagara University's "Take Back the Night" event on March 31.

 Students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community gathered at Niagara University March 31 to “Take Back the Night” during the fifth annual event that aims to end sexual, relationship, and domestic violence in all forms.

“This year’s theme is ‘Believe. Respect. Unite. We come together to hold a space of honor and respect for survivors and their families, and to share our vision of hope, unity, and a call to action with our community,” said Dr. Jennifer E. Beebe, associate professor of counseling, who co-organized the event with Dr. Dana L. Radatz, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice.

The event, which began at 5 p.m. in the Gallagher Center gym, included resource tables, a candlelight vigil, and a student-organized march across campus. A brief program featured a performance of “Rise Up,” by the Soar Throats, NU’s acapella club, and the NU Players; the introduction of “Ridge Respect,” a pledge of non-violence; and the presentation of two awards. Drs. Beebe and Radatz were also honored for their work in bringing “Take Back the Night” to campus and coordinating the event each year.

The program also included featured speaker Dr. Alexa Sardina, assistant professor in the Division of Criminal Justice at California State University, Sacramento, who shared her story as a rape survivor.

Dr. Shannon Hodges, professor of counseling in the College of Education, received the Excellence in Leadership and Advocacy award, and senior political science/international studies major Maren Geiger received the Nicholas Albano Student Advocacy Award, named for a former student leader who passed away unexpectedly in 2017 after battling epilepsy.

This year, the event was integrated into Niagara University’s newly established Office of Violence Prevention & Education, under the leadership of project director Emily Pike.

“This allows the event to be part of a larger initiative within the university to educate and increase awareness on violence prevention,” said Dr. Radatz. “With TBTN, the emphasis is on increasing awareness and education on sexual violence.” 

“Take Back the Night has laid the foundation for the OVPE, and I am excited to take part in organizing this event for our campus. This is an opportunity to come together as community to listen, reflect, and advocate for survivors and their families. Take Back the Night is a true reflection of the Vincentian values at Niagara University,” said Pike.

The Office for Violence Prevention & Education 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).

“We are excited to launch the OVPE at NU, which 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 Dr. Beebe.

“The Catholic and Vincentian mission of Niagara University calls on us to be the light for those who need our help, and this is another way we are able to do that,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “We are committed to fostering an educational environment that focuses on the dignity of every human being who comes on our campus. I’m very grateful to the students, faculty, staff, and administrators who have invested themselves in this cause to affect change.”

Several community agencies and organizations from the local community partnered and participated in the event, including this year’s featured community partner, the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier. The YWCA is 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.

Take Back the Night 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.