If you or someone you know has been domestically or sexually assaulted, contact the police or the Tompkins County Advocacy Center. The center provides free services for people of any race, ability, religion, immigration status, gender identity or sexual orientation. The 24-hour hotline is (607) 277-5000 and more information about the center can be found here. 

ITHACA, N.Y. — Survivors of domestic and sexual violence and allies took to Ithaca’s streets Friday for Take Back the Night, an annual international event that puts the spotlight on domestic and sexual violence.

Last year, the Advocacy Center provided support to nearly 1,300 youth and adults in Tompkins County impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, rape or child sexual abuse.

Hundreds of people marched to the Ithaca Commons. Some came from Cornell University, some from Ithaca College and another large group that left from the Greater Ithaca Activities Center. They met at the Bernie Milton Pavilion for a rally, where speakers talked about their experiences, and shared music and poetry.

Hundreds of people gathered Friday for Take Back the Night, an event that shines the spotlight on domestic and sexual violence the a mission to end it. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)
Hundreds of people gathered Friday for Take Back the Night, an event that shines the spotlight on domestic and sexual violence the a mission to end it. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)

Behind the speakers on stage were T-shirts part of The Clothesline Project, displaying messages from survivors of domestic violence.

Related: Clothesline Project in Ithaca airs messages of people impacted by domestic violence

Take Back the Night grew out of a number of incidents in the 1970s that spurred activism and media attention. Ithaca’s event is organized by The Advocacy Center, a local organization that offers support to survivors of domestic, sexual violence and child sexual assault. They have a 24-hour hotline with trained people to offer support available any time of day.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick delivered a proclamation Friday declaring April 27 as “Take Back the Night Day” in the City of Ithaca.

Myrick said while it’s the duty of law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges to deliver justice, elected officials who write the laws must too.

“Sheriffs, district attorneys, judges, presidents, enforce those laws. And we have elected officials who don’t understand consent. They don’t respect consent. They don’t respect women. And we need to vote them out,” Myrick said.

Musician Angie Beeler performed a song she wrote for a friend who passed away. Before she began, she encouraged people to look out for each other.

“I also feel like we all have a responsibility for each other, to notice when we need help and not everybody asks for it but we all have to hold each other with integrity,” Beeler said.

This year’s theme for Ithaca’s Take Back the Night was “Justice for #MeToo,” a movement that has empowered people to speak out about sexual harassment and violence. As part of the event, survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence took the stage to share their powerful and emotional stories.

The Me Too movement has changed things in ways “we could have imagined” in terms of the legal landscape, Liz Karns, a lecturer at Cornell University, epidemiologist and lawyer, said when she took the stage. She said more people are coming up, funding litigation, holding perpetrators accountable and getting convictions.

“We’re recognizing that these acts are not about miscommunication, right? It’s not confusion. It’s actually about power, and it’s about violence and it’s about oppressing somebody else. And it’s time that we take the next step,” Karns said.

The next step, she said, is one that recognizes the lifetime cost of sexual violence. The cost includes anything from paying for Plan B to time — missing classes or work. The cost of sexual violence creates a path that’s hard to get out of and can impact people for decades, Karns said. She called for holding perpetrators accountable for restitution. Attaching money to an idea causes behavior to change, she said.

“It’s time to recognize it isn’t a short event. It isn’t just an emotional event. It is an economic event, and it’s one that causes financial harm. We need to shift that financial harm back onto the person who caused it and those people who helped assist or hide it,” Karns said.

Below is a slideshow showing the march from GIAC to the rally on the Ithaca Commons. Photos by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice

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Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.