By Joseph Garcia —

Every year, U of L’s PEACC Center kicks off Sexual Assault Awareness Month by hosting their annual “Take Back the Night” rally and march.

The event had a designated “refuge” in the adjacent LGBT Center, in which trained counselors were waiting to meet with any student who felt the need to talk to someone.

“The purpose of this event is to bring people together and to protest power-based violence, but to also honor the stories of those who have survived it,” Tisha Fletcher said. Following Fletcher’s opening remarks, Ashlea Christiansen stepped on stage to discuss Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law is meant to protect and expand the rights for victims of crime in Kentucky. Senior Meghan Breen attended the rally and was surprised to learn the truth.

“I didn’t know victims don’t have those rights,” Breen said.

Christianson said not many of people know their rights, hence why the law is so crucial.

“In November, and leading up to November, share the word about Marsy’s Law and go out and vote,” Christiansen said.

Following the speeches was the “Speak Out” session, where survivors were encouraged to share their stories and break the silence. Some dealt with sexual abuse as children, while others suffered abuse from partners.

“It’s exhilarating, saying your whole truth for the first time. It’s letting it go and watching it fall from you while it still pulls you down, but it’s not as strong of a pull,” Jas Morris said.

“It was eye-opening…I have no experience with sexual violence [and] in hearing the stories, it makes me sad because I never realized how often it happens,” Breen said.

A candlelit vigil and march were held afterward for those affected by sexual assault and for those who have lost their lives to violence. Students held signs and chanted through the rain as they walked through campus.

One survivor said, “This is more than just taking back the night, breaking my silence has helped me take back my life.”

Photo by Arry Schofield / The Louisville Cardinal