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Taking back the night

PRINCETON — They will gather to stand in support of those who have been victims, and to speak for those who cannot.

On Thursday, the Illinois Imagines Awareness Collaboration Team, in collaboration with Freedom House and Gateway Services and a host of other agencies, will sponsor a “Take Back the Night” vigil at Soldiers and Sailors Park in Princeton, beginning at 6 p.m.

Stephanie Cartwright, Freedom House special projects manager, said the purpose of the event is to bring awareness to the fact that women with disabilities are four times more likely to have been sexually assaulted in the last year than women without a disability.

"It is our vision to ensure all women with disabilities, and all women in general, will be guaranteed an environment free from sexual violence where they will be empowered to speak and act for themselves," Cartwright said.

Speakers at the event, which is being held in conjunction with National Sexual Violence Awareness Month, include Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley), Princeton Mayor Keith Cain, Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann, Freedom House CEO Connie Doran, Gateway Services CEO Jeffrey Dean, Teresa Tudor of the Bureau of Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Office, Springfield, a representative from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, and an adult victim of child sexual violence.

“She (the victim) has an incredible amount of courage to tell her story publicly,” Cartwright said. “She survived such a horrible ordeal and has taken the crime that stole her childhood from her, and after counseling and therapy, is using her message of survival, hope and the desire to make a difference, to help others. She is truly an inspiration.”

The one-hour event will include a Silent Witness display, the Clothesline Project and luminaries decorated by local school children and Gateway Services. The Silent Witness Project features life-sized cut-outs of women, children and babies killed in Bureau, Henry, Marshall, Putnam and Stark counties. The Clothesline Project will feature T-shirts designed by survivors of domestic or sexual violence that have expressed their road to recovery through an art therapy medium.

Cartwright said there are many women locally who are suffering in silence, and she urged local residents to come out and show their support. She said the vigil is a chance to let everyone know of all the agencies in place that can offer them support and healing in their road to recovery.

“This heinous act of violence happens to as many as 83 percent of all the girls and women with developmental disabilities and to as many as 32 percent of boys and men with disabilities," Cartwright said. "The only way we can make a difference is by making people aware and helping those that need our services. Please be their voice. Take one hour out of your day and show your support.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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