The Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma and members of the community came together Tuesday night at Central Park to raise awareness of sexual assault.
Take Back the Night is an international movement that aims to end sexual, relationship, and domestic violence in all forms.
Community members and representatives from other area agencies including Catholic Charities and the Chickasaw Nation Violence Prevention Program came out to show support. Drivers headed east on Main Street honked in support of survivors and those calling for an end to violence.
Demonstrators made their own signs and sported teal ribbons for the cause.
One counselor with the Family Shelter, Hillary Bracht, LCSW, said raising awareness is important because the topic of sexual assault is still considered taboo.
“People feel uncomfortable talking about it,” Bracht said. “But talking about it brings an opportunity for change.”
Bracht said by having more frank discussions about assault and consent, the community can begin to change the stigma around reporting violence and give more support and understanding to survivors.
The local Starbucks came out to support the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma and the community by offering free iced beverages. Store Manager Tim Washington said the store provides food for the shelter that is still good but company policy will not allow them to sell as part of a nationwide effort to provide assistance to community partners. Washington said his store also donates pastries and other items in addition to showing up for events like Take Back the Night.
Community members who would like to help can donate to the Shelter, purchase an awareness t-shirt ($22) and attend various fundraisers throughout the year. Contact information and events can be found on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheFamilyShelterofSouthernOk/.
There is also an upcoming training focused on sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence. The Healthy Lifestyles Sexual Assault Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 20 at Southern Oklahoma Technology Center in Classroom B, with four different presentations from trained professionals discussing the impact of sexual assault. The training is free to the public. It is a CLEET approved training with four CLEET hours and two mental health hours. Invitations will be sent out. If you do not receive one and would like to attend please call 580-226-3750 to register.