‘Take Back the Night’ takes a step closer to home

Red and blue lights flashed, leading the way for more than 150 people walking down 17th Street Friday evening.

Flashlights beamed over yellow pieces of paper from which the group read: “Claim our bodies, claim our rights, take a stand, take back the nights.”

The Wichita Police Department and Wichita State Police Department joined to escort the group as they walked a mile from Fairmount Park to the WSU campus and back to the park, which is located one mile south of campus.

The crowd — a blend of sexual assault survivors, WSU students and other community members — were gathered in support of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center’s annual Take Back the Night event.

This year’s rally took place at Fairmount Park, where 36-year-old Letitia Davis was beaten, sexually assaulted and set on fire in November, according to police at the time of the crime. She later died from her injuries.

In honor of Davis, Take Back the Night was held in the same location.

Psychology graduate students Jessica Drum and Jasmine Douglas attended the event in support of the community. The two are officers in the Community Psychology Association. Together, with others, they said they plan to work to help prevent sexual assault on campus.

“With recent events that happened, it just kind of came naturally,” Drum said. “We thought that this was an opportunity for us to make a change.”

The gathering began at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Wichita Wagonmasters provided cheeseburgers and chips, while organizations such as WASAC and Safe Place set up booths to provide information for attendees.   

Next, speakers came to the front of the crowd. The means of communication changed with each speaker, but each spoke to the general topic of sexual violence.

“I was violated by more than just my rapist,” sexual assault survivor Michelle Garner said in her speech.

She continued to describe how rape culture exists in society — police, high schools and her friends placed part of the blame on her instead of the perpetrator, she said. Garner said her sister also fell victim to sexual violence.

“I needed to be a voice for her and all other survivors,” Garner said.   

Interim Wichita Police Chief Nelson Mosley said he attended the rally for the first time this year because of the crimes that transpired near campus in November.

“Take Back the Night is a great event,” Mosley said. “But we want to take back all the nights.”