The President's Commission on the Status of Women hosted Take Back the Night, along with the Dean of Students Office, First Step, and WC SAFE, a nonprofit organization that provides care to sexual assault survivors, on April 19 in the Student Center ballroom.
Take Back the Night began in the United States in the 1970s and focused on violence against women, specifically the broader issue of sexual violence, according to the event description.
The event began with opening remarks by Sara Byczek, chair of COSW, who thanked attendees for helping to fight violence against women.
Byczek then introduced Kalimah Johnson, an adjunct professor at Marygrove College and founder/director of SASHA Center, an organization dedicated to providing support and help to women who have been survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
The theme of this year’s event was consent. Johnson asked the audience, "Why does consent matter?" An audience member responded, "Because only yes mean yes."
Johnson said that along with mutual communication, consent is respecting and caring for the person involved.
The next speaker to present was Kimberly Gabriel, a sergeant in the Detroit Police Department Special Victims Unit.
“Everyone is affected by sexual assault,” she said.
She said 90 percent of women suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after cases of sexual assault, and healing can be halted when a women is not given recognition, support or care.
Gabriel said in response, DPD has started a new training program that will teach incoming police officers, as well as current officers on the force, to be more sensitive to complaints of sex crimes and domestic violence.
“I promise to you, I will do everything,” she said. “I will give my 100 percent to keep you all safe and to prevent sex crimes.”
The keynote speaker for the event was Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr., who represents the 23rd district.
He spoke about the lack of education on what consent is and is working on a bill, “Yes Means Yes,” to help the epidemic of sex crimes and violence against women.
Introduced in 2015, the bill seeks to bring better sex education to public schools in Michigan, along with teaching and defining consent. The bill also will prevent sex offenders from working near or with sexual assault victims.
Hertel said that while women are cautioned how to behave, men are not taught not to be perpetrators.
After the speeches, attendees marched in a rally to support raising awareness for sexual violence.
Bushra Hussain, a graduate student studying counseling, said she is “very happy to see Senator Hertel fight for women’s rights.”
“In public schools, it is not taught what consent is, [but] it is a very important subject to teach to grade school children,” she said. “If we teach boys and girls what consent is, we can prevent sex crimes from increasing."