Take Back The Night Stands Up To Violence Against Women

Monday, September 23, 2013 - by Meagan Shinn

The Women’s Center at UTC and Partnership for Families, Children and Adults present Take Back the Night Chattanooga, an evening to take a stance against sexual assault and domestic violence.  

Take Back the Night will be held on Oct. 23, at the Oak St. Amphitheatre on the UTC campus. Take Back the Night is an international march and rally to bring awareness to sexual assault and domestic violence.  

Chattanooga’s Take Back the Night will include nationally recognized guest speaker, Katie Hnida, the first woman to play and score in an NCAA Division I football game. Ms. Hnida will tell her story of surviving sexual assault by teammates while playing at the University of Colorado. Jessica Cookston, local sexual assault survivor will share her personal story of survival while leading a candlelight vigil to remember those affected by violence.  The evening will also include a march through Chattanooga’s Fortwood Historic District to symbolize the walk through darkness many women take in order to get to their home or vehicle, which can often be a fearful experience. The march will raise awareness about all forms of violence and allow a united community to walk through our city streets. All are invited to participate. 

7 p.m. Guest Speaker Katie Hnida addresses community about surviving sexual assault and advocating for change
7:30 p.m. Community march through Fortwood Historic District

8 p.m. Candlelight vigil led by local survivor, Jessica Cookston 

It happens in our community.

Seventeen years old and senior year is just beginning. The world was full of opportunity and excitement but one horrific act swept it all away. Hope gone in an instant. Lost. Isolated. Wounded. Jessica Cookston describes the overwhelming trauma she felt after being raped ten years ago, “It was such a shock to my system to have something I was supposed to have the freedom to give away, taken in such a violent manner," said Jessica.  "I reported it to the police but nothing was done and I was denied medical care at four clinics.” Devastated and heartbroken, Jessica, a victim in so many ways, struggled for years to rebuild life on her own.  

Last year, at 26 years-old, the unthinkable happened: Jessica was attacked and raped again. She fought the attacker but without success. How could this horrible crime happen to her again? Jessica, scarred by her past experience did not report the assault to the police. She instead searched online for a clinic specializing in care for sexual assault victims. Jessica found Partnership for Families, Children and Adults Rape Crisis Center. 

“The Partnership Rape Crisis Center gave me the medical care that I needed," said Jessica.  "The sexual assault advocate and nurses were supportive and compassionate. Partnership also provided me with counseling and introduced me to Kelly.” 

Kelly, counselor at RCC, listened to Jessica for as long as she needed. Jessica found strength, hope and eventually her own voice. Kelly encouraged Jessica to write out her thoughts and feelings in a journal to begin a therapeutic healing process. These thoughts became much more and Jessica began writing a novel to express herself. Jessica’s work of fiction, Hope Never Holds, has allowed her to move forward and also help other victims cope with sexual assault. Jessica’s novel is now producing sales on Amazon. With Hope Never Holds, Jessica strives to raise awareness about sexual assault and teach victims how to rebuild.  

Jessica now gives back to Partnership and advocates for ending violence in our community, “Partnership has been such a monumental driving force in my life. Without their help I can honestly say I would not be the woman I am now. I greatly appreciate Partnership and those who support what they are doing.  Together we have strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Together we can come together and speak out.” 

 One in six women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime. In 2012, Partnership’s Rape Crisis Center served 300 individuals in our community. A victim is someone’s mother, sister, daughter and friend. Without Partnership, a busy, cold ER would be a rape victim’s first destination after assault. A victim would endure the hospital waiting room, possibly for hours, waiting for her chance to see a doctor. The trauma remains fresh, but the evidence can be lost quickly in that waiting period.

At Partnership, victims are greeted in a safe, calm setting. A sexual assault advocate and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner comfort the victim and accommodate to individual needs. The forensic exam is completed in a secure room where evidence is protected. Counseling is provided. Court advocacy is available. Power is restored. These services are provided at no-cost to the victim, because no one should have mounting medical bills in addition to horrible trauma. Thanks to Partnership supporters, victims are empowered to become survivors.

For help or support, call Partnership’s 24-hour Hotline at 755-2700 to receive crisis services and information.

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