Project Woman hosted its annual candlelight vigil called Take Back The Night on Oct. 6 in honor of domestic violence victims.
Take Back The Night happens every October to bring awareness to National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The vigil is an event to celebrate those who have survived, remember those lost and give hope to those who are currently undergoing hardship within relationships.
People gathered on Thursday night outside of Springfield City Hall to recall those they had lost to domestic violence, along with those who are still with them. The night began with a performance by Wittenberg’s female a cappella group, Just Eve, and transitioned into opening remarks by Nick Heimlich, master of ceremonies.
“Our mission here tonight is to bring hearts together,” Heimlich said.
Laura Baxter, executive director of Project Woman, then stepped up to the podium to say that everyone gathered there is providing hope for victims. One in four women and one in 10 men experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
“I’m hopeful that each day we’re making progress, even though the statistics don’t change,” Baxter said.
Baxter went on to say that she doesn’t believe the lack of change means the Womyn’s Center is ineffective, but the opposite, as people are coming forward and asking for help much more frequently. She spoke of how abusers isolate victims, and the event is proof that the victims are being heard. Everyone in unison then said, “I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. We are together.”
The executive director then presented Leanne Wierenga with the Chrysalis Award, representing strong support and help to Project Woman. Wierenga is a volunteer and even a past board member for the organization.
“I think I’m a survivor, and it’s because of Project Woman that I am,” Wierenga said, choked up.
She she had been victimized by a past husband, and the organization helped her find courage to press charges and leave him. Seeing a counselor at Project Woman showed her that she could be happy and survive. Wierenga considers herself one of the lucky ones with a good job, good family and good coworkers. She stressed that not everyone who comes to the shelter seeking help has those things, and the smallest bit of money donated could help their cause.
After a moving musical performance by Kent Brooks, director of Wittenberg’s IMANI Gospel Choir, Take Back the Night truly began. The Wittenberg Survivor Organization called No Woman Left Behind led a march of university students and faculty back to campus in solidarity after the vigil.
“Claim our bodies, claim our right; take a stand, take back the night!” they chanted.
In commitment to ending domestic and intimate partner violence, participants held their candles high and marched all the way back to Founder’s Pub, where an open microphone awaited anyone who wanted to speak on the subject. While snacking on cookies and hot chocolate, students respectfully listened to others’ experience with sexual violence, reminding everyone that you may know someone, but not their story.
To learn more about additional October events and support the organization’s cause, visit ProjectWomanOhio.org.