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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

DeKalb rallies to support Take Back the Night

Kelsey Gettle, legal program manager for Safe Passage, leads a group of people in a rally. Tuesday evening Take Back the Night marched around the Egyptian Theater in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness month. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

DeKALB – A crowd of about 100 people gathered Tuesday for the annual Take Back the Night survivor speak out and protest march at the Egyptian Theatre.

Victims shared their stories of sexual assault, rape and child sex trafficking at the hands of fathers, brothers, friends, partners and strangers with the audience.

Organized by Safe Passage, DeKalb County’s only domestic violence and sexual assault crisis center, the event featured a protest march around the block of the Egyptian Theatre and a survivor speak out.

“Join together. Free our lives. We will not be victimized,” was one of the chants shouted by the 80 attendees who joined the march. The crowd was led around the block by legal program manager for Safe Passage Kelsey Gettle, who carried a megaphone to direct the chants.

A group of people rally with a sign reading “NO DOES NOT MEAN CONVINCE ME.” Eighty people joined the rally despite the cloudy weather. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

Multiple employees of Safe Passage spoke in support of sexual assault victims, explaining the services the organization provides and letting victims know they have ways to heal from their experiences.

“I know unfortunately a lot of us are here because we are bound by one heart-breaking trait. Someone took what they had no right to take from us,” said Holly Bonilla, who has worked with Safe Passage since 2017. “Somebody crossed a line that they had no right to cross.”

Two anonymous messages were read by Safe Passage staff describing experiences with sexual assault and pushing for the support of victims.

Crystal Hart and Jasmine Pease, sexual assault counselors at Safe Passage, both emphasized the event’s turnout was beyond what the organization had expected.

“We do Take Back the Night to build awareness for sexual assault, especially within our community to let the community know that we are a resource for them,” Hart said.

After no more volunteers stepped up to speak, employees began a mindfulness exercise called the rainbow meditation, which guides the meditator to imagine a rainbow in front of them before describing each color and providing positive affirmations.

In closing remarks, Harvey Green, a residential case manager at Safe Passage, expressed gratitude that the event had a turnout larger than expected, filling the lobby of the theatre.

“It’s really important to know that there’s this many people who are in support of survivors,” Green said.

Hart also announced she is currently organizing men’s group counseling in addition to the organization’s regular counseling for men. She is hopeful to begin the program in the summer.

“The plan is for us to meet weekly at Safe Passage. There really isn’t a specific group for men, for sexual assault, especially within this county, so I talked to my supervisor and we wanted to start one to provide that resource for men,” Hart said.

For sexual assault awareness month, Safe Passage is also partnering with NIU’s prevention education and outreach department to hold a Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 20 at the NIU Convocation Center.

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