Soldiers march to 'Take Back the Night'

by Spc. Lauren Wanda
U.S. Army

CAMP CASEY, South Korea - Traffic temporarily slowed to a halt as a sea of people flooded into the street bearing handmade signs and boisterously chanting in hopes of spreading a common message.

Creating a surprising scene, Soldiers of 2nd Infantry Division participated in a peaceful and empowering march to raise awareness on sexual assault and prevention during the first "Take Back the Night" walk at Camp Casey, South Korea, April 30.

"The purpose is for us to feel comfortable at night," said Sgt. 1st Class Neila Lawrence, brigade sexual assault response coordinator, 1st ABCT, 2nd Inf. Div. "We shouldn't feel afraid to walk down the street at night. It's about taking control of the situation and not allowing fear to stop us."

Originating in the early 1970s, Take Back the Night began as a way for women to speak out about violence against women. Early events include a protest in San Francisco in 1973, after a serial murder of women. In 1975, a march was organized in Philadelphia, following the death of microbiologist Susan Alexander Speeth, who was murdered while walking home alone. One year later, women attending the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in Belgium held the first march to "Reclaim the Night," discussing the safety of women on public streets and marching to raise awareness in hopes of preventing future acts of violence.

Take Back the Night was originally focused on women's safety in individual communities, but has since evolved into a large international movement. Events are held annually on college campuses and in cities across the nation and worldwide, promoting the right of individuals both male and female to feel safe from violence.

"Sexual assault affects everyone and its good to see everyone from different ranks come together for an event like this," said Lawrence.

The event, sponsored by the Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention program, also invited family members to get involved and participate.

"It's not just a Soldier thing, it's a family thing," said Lawrence. "It raises awareness so kids who see this, know that their parents have values, and they can trust that the military not only fights for us overseas but they will also fight for us if something were to happen at home."

Leading by example, events like this bolster the crusade to eliminate sexual assault in the Army's formations and communities, said Lawrence.

"Unlike most militaries, we are made up of a volunteer force of our society so we have to say no, society looks to the military to set examples all the time," said Lawrence. "When they see that the armed forces can come together and do this, they realize we too as citizens can do the same thing."

Additionally, the event promoted the resources available to Soldiers and their families if they become victim to sexual assault or harassment. Victims are not alone in the fight to overcome sexual assault and harassment.

"With large numbers of unreported incidents, I think things like this encourage victims to reach out for the help and support they need," said Pvt. Kyle Black, chaplain's assistant, 302nd Brigade Support Battalion, 1st ABCT. "It can give them the strength they need. Just looking around I see probably about 500 people here, that's 500 people that care enough to listen if someone needs to talk."

Awareness plays a crucial role in preventing sexual assault and doing the right thing can have a ripple effect, said Sgt. Maj. Tammy White-McKnight, division SHARP program manager for Area I and Area III, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 8th U.S. Army.

"All it takes is one bystander to prevent an event," said White-McKnight. "That one event might prevent another event because sometimes predators don't just do it one time, they do it multiple times. So if we stop that predator, we stop several people from potentially becoming a victim."

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