Marchers seek end to sex assault

By Daija Jones

Alumna Karli Johnson, 25, a sexual assault survivor, has dedicated her life to working with other sexual assault survivors.

A communication major during her time at NIU, Johnson is now a public speaker who travels to schools to talk about sexual assault and violence prevention. Johnson was one of six speakers who spoke to participants of Tuesday’s Take Back the Night march.

The annual event is coordinated to raise awareness of the damaging consequences of nighttime violence and sexual assault against women. Screaming chants like, “rape’s an attack, women fight back,” participants made their way from the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons to a bonfire by the East Lagoon.

Freshman psychology major Emilly Huerta said she found out about Take Back the Night, the first big event she’s attended at NIU, after reading fliers.

“I think it was a great cause, from the march and speech to encouraging random drivers on the streets for support by simply honking their horns,” Huerta said.

Johnson said Take Back the Night — which she attended for the first time as a sophomore — changed her life by helping her cope with and recognize how abusive some of her relationships had been.

Since becoming aware of the frequency of sexual assault, Johnson said she promotes the idea that sexual assault and nighttime violence survivors are “everyday victims.” About 18 percent of women and 1.4 percent of men reported being raped, according to a 2012 Centers for Disease Control report.

Johnson said her main tool in communication is to use humor as a way to discuss sexual assault and get others to start talking, although she encourages everyone to speak even if it isn’t at a public event.

It was “very powerful to hear people come and speak. They really made hearing about the violence and abuse a more welcoming experience in comparison to the uncomfortable and awkward feeling that comes from just talking about sex, let alone sex in a unwanted context,” Johnson said.

Freshman nursing major Jalissa Rios, a member of the Women’s Rights Alliance, said Take Back the Night is one of the biggest events the alliance is a part of.

“This event was a great thing to be a part of, even though I personally was never a victim of sexual assault, but I still feel very strongly for this message to be broadcasted so woman and girls of all ages will speak up … ,” Rios said. “This event will bring awareness so we may one day terminate such crimes as these. I hope NIU continues to host Take Back the Night.”