OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – Fox Valley ‘Take Back the Night’ entered its 33rd year on Tuesday night.
The event aims to eliminate sexual and domestic violence in all its forms through spreading awareness and empowering survivors. Reach Counseling teamed up with Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services, Inc. in Oshkosh and Diverse and Resilient in Appleton to put on the event on the campus of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
The event included a resource fair, presentations from representatives from the organizations that put on the event, and a march through the streets of Oshkosh.
The march began at the Culver Family Welcome Center on UWO’s campus and weaved its way through Oshkosh to the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services building. The group had a full police escort for the march and chanted loudly through the night.
The event finished with an organizer reading the names of everybody in Wisconsin who died over the past year because of domestic abuse situations.
“Bringing awareness to groups shows that you support them and you’re here for them,” said Sam Bowen who attended the event and said they are a second-year student at UWO.
Bowen said this is the first year that they have attended the event and that they wanted to be here to support others in the community. Attendees at the event included UWO students and community members.
“Despite what community you are in, you should always have someone that you feel safe reaching out to,” said Bowen.
Every year, organizers choose a different group to highlight. This year they chose to highlight the LGBTQIA+ community. Officials with Diverse and Resilient said that in Outagamie County LGBTQIA+ youth are three times more likely to experience sexual or dating violence than their peers who are straight.
They said over half of these kids feel debilitating feelings of sadness and hopelessness. An official with Reach Counseling said in the last few years they’ve seen an increase in the number of LGBTQIA+ individuals seeking their services. They said they attribute this to anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation at all levels of government and negative rhetoric towards this community.
“Clients are scared,” said Rachel Parbs who is the campus outreach coordinator for Reach Counseling. “It feels like we’re taking steps backward and not moving forward to the future.”
On Tuesday, Wisconsin’s Republican-led Senate passed a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors after the Assembly passed it last week. Wisconsin’s Assembly also has passed bills that would limit transgender individuals’ ability to participate in youth sports (Wisconsin’s Senate hasn’t taken up this bill quite yet).
“Protecting children from invasive and irreversible medical interventions is the right thing to do from a scientific and ethical standpoint,” the bill’s lead Republican sponsor, Sen. Duey Stroebel, said according to the Associated Press.
Governor Tony Evers has said he would veto all these bills when they get to his desk.
FBI data shows that in 2022 there were about 350 more hate crimes nationwide against people for their gender identity or sexual orientation than in 2021. There were 673 more of these hate crimes in 2022 than in 2018.
“We really want to help them (the LGBTQIA+ community) find community here at ‘Take Back the Night’ and for their voices to be heard and for them to be seen,” said Parbs about the importance of events like ‘Take Back the Night.’ “We’re looking for healing and support through collaboration.”
Organizers also spotlighted resources in the community for those who are facing sexual or domestic violence.
UW-Green Bay will hold its ‘Take Back the Night’ event on Wednesday.