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National ‘Take Back the Night’ Kick Off Scheduled for March 31 at Belmont

Rally, march, candlelight vigil aim to raise awareness of sexual, domestic violence; Event will mark start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April

Take Back the Night, an international nonprofit dedicated to ending sexual violence in all its forms, announced today that its kickoff event for 2016 will be held in Nashville at Belmont University on March 31. Led by a committee chaired by Belmont Coordinator of Security Programs Liz Grubb, Belmont’s Take Back the Night event will feature an opening worship service, a keynote address from Take Back the Night activist and author Katie Koestner, a neighborhood march and a candlelight vigil.

Koestner is the first victim of date rape to speak-out nationally about her experience at the College of William and Mary. She appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine in June of 1991, and HBO made a movie about her story in 1993. Ms. Koestner has since appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Geraldo, NBC Nightly News, CNBC Talk Live, Larry King Live, Good Morning America and dozens of other programs as well as has been interviewed by numerous national and regional publications. She currently serves as executive director for Campus Outreach Services, an organization that seeks to educate students to make safe, healthy decisions.

Koestner said, “Take Back the Night is thrilled to have the leadership of Belmont University as our National Kick-Off to Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual violence affects one in four women and one in six men. During April, Take Back the Night rallies, marches and speak-outs will take place on campuses and in communities throughout the U.S. and around the world. We will end the month with 10 Points of Light circling the U.S. in a national candlelight vigil to demonstrate our united support for survivors.”

Grubb oversees the safety education efforts at Belmont through her work in Campus Security including new programs dealing with bystander intervention, dating and relationship violence, self defense and consent. She said, “In addition to actively involving our campus in Take Back the Night, we will be reaching out to other area institutions and community members to spread awareness efforts… Belmont already offers programming that address different facets of sexual violence in the context of a safe and intentional conversation while also empowering practical action to prevent this violence. While we offer a number of options to students, faculty and staff throughout the year to educate, inform and equip our community about violence prevention and sexual assault, our goal for awareness is not simply about getting the facts in front of people, but changing the attitude and culture to one that does not tolerate violence at all.”

One week after the Take Back the Night event, Belmont will host an “It’s On Us” pledge campaign event. Using the momentum of Take Back the Night, the April 8 “It’s On Us” event will seek to continue the conversation and spark action and commitment from the campus community to take a pledge of “personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It is a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be part of the solution.”

Both events on Belmont’s campus recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and seek to create a culture-changing mindset with regards to sexual violence prevention.

While hosted at Belmont, the Take Back the Night national kickoff event will seek to garner involvement and support from area campuses in Middle Tennessee, schools, government officials and surrounding neighborhoods to aid in spreading awareness, creating safer communities and promoting respectful relationships. For more information or to get involved with Take Back the Night, contact Grubb or Belmont Campus Security officer Tiffany Cooper, who is helping coordinate all event logistics.

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