HENNEPIN — In observance of National Sexual Violence Awareness Month, the Illinois Imagines Awareness Collaboration Team (ACT) will host “Take Back the Night” at 6 p.m. April 11. This year’s event will be held at the Walter Durley Boyle Park in Hennepin. ACT is comprised of representatives from Freedom House, Department of Rehabilitative Services, Bureau County State’s Attorney’s Office, Princeton Police Department, Bureau-Marshall-Putnam Special Education Cooperative, 13th Judicial Circuit Family Violence Coordinating Council, Self Advocates and Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living.
The first “Take Back the Night” awareness event in the United States was held in October 1975 as community members in Philadelphia, Pa., rallied together after the fatal stabbing of a young woman, Susan Alexander, a block from her home. Since then, “Take Back the Night” has become an international event which focuses on ending sexual violence against all people. This year’s event will bring awareness to the problem of sexual violence against people with disabilities.
“Forty percent of women with physical disabilities are victims of sexual assault each year,” according to Michelle Spears, development coordinator for Freedom House. “These numbers increase substantially when a person has a developmental disability with a reported 83 percent of females and 32 percent of males being the victim of rape or sexual assault. Only 3 percent of these cases are ever reported. Freedom House is proud to partner with Illinois Imagines to let victims know that they do not have to suffer in silence.”
Illinois Imagines is a collaborative project on the state level that focuses on changing Illinois systems to better serve people with disabilities who also experience sexual violence.
“Rape and sexual assault are crimes motivated out of anger and control,” Spears said. “Offenders will often seek victims which they feel are vulnerable. This is why nearly 40,000 rapes or sexual assaults will occur against persons with disabilities each year. Cooperatives such as Illinois Imagines and awareness events such as ‘Take Back the Night’ are crucial steps in ending these horrible crimes.”
Featured speakers at the “Take Back the Night” vigil will include Teresa Tudor from the Bureau of Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention, Jason Johnson from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and James Mack from the Putnam County State’s Attorney’s Office. Survivors will also bravely share their stories of abuse.
“We understand that the topic of sexual assault is never an easy one to face but this problem is quite real and in our own communities,” Spears says. “We ask that people will come and be a voice for those who may be unable to speak out against the crimes happening to them.”