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'Take Back the Night' focuses on combating sexual abuse

MCC speakers, attendees march to spread awareness of crime

(Sarah Nader)
Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Brandy Fernandez (center) of Fox River Grove attends a vigil Wednesday hosted by the McHenry County College Student Peace Action Network at MCC in Crystal Lake. The event, "Take Back the Night" featured guest speakers from Turning Point and Voice who talked about sexual violence.

CRYSTAL LAKE – For every Bridget Hummel – for every loud, boisterous Bridget Hummel – there are nine other victims left quietly dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse.

It is this number that drives Hummel to speak.

“I am that statistic – that one in 10,” she told a McHenry County auditorium Wednesday night. “I did report it, and I fought it.

“And I won.”

Hummel spoke during the presentation from VOICE, the Pioneer Center for Human Services’ program for sexual assault victims. MCC’s Student Peace Action Network (SPAN) hosted its “Take Back the Night” event Wednesday, put on each year to help spread awareness about sexual violence and domestic abuse.

The event also featured a speaker from Turning Point, which aims to confront violence against women and children and offers a shelter for the abused. The night ended with attendees braving the damp cold during a march around the campus and an outdoor vigil. Some placed notes in a fire, a symbolic push toward moving forward.

“I know last year one of my friend’s moms actually came, and she said she’d had an experience and didn’t really tell anybody,” said Ashley Beese, of SPAN. “She put something in the fire and she said it made her feel a lot better about what had happened.”

Still, VOICE legal medical advocate Sarah Mathe said, the lingering effects of sexual assault are serious and at times devastating – depression, anger and a feeling of seclusion are among them, but the list is long.

“They don’t get to leave the scene of the crime,” Mathe said. “They’re stuck in their bodies.”

One in six women experience some form of rape in their lives, Mathe said, and 80 percent know their attacker. Still, the crime is the most underreported in the country, she said.

Molly Horton, children’s advocate for Turning Point, spoke about the denial women in abusive relationships can go through. Because abuse tends to start slow and worsen over time, victims often find it tough to disconnect from partners toward which they’ve built strong feelings.

“As it occurs over time, we see it increasing in frequency and severity,” Horton said.

She urged members of the audience to take a stand and send a message that abusive behavior – not just physical or sexual but also verbal – is never OK.

From the seats, Hummel had already taken that message to heart. She said she wants to continue send the message that there’s hope for those who’ve been abused.

“I win. I win every day,” said Hummel, whose attacker is serving a 45-year sentence. “He wanted to win for 20 minutes, fine. I win every day for the rest of his life.”

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