USA Public Health Committee hosts Take Back the Night: Kathryn Parker shares her personal testimony

Jenna Gaudino

Griffin Reporter

Take Back the Night (TBTN), an event presented by the Undergraduate Student Association’s (USA) Public Health Committee, is dedicated to educating men and women on sexual assault and domestic violence. USA’s Executive Vice President Kathryn Parker explained, “Take Back the Night is an event that was designed to support and encourage survivors of assault, and it’s also creating a space that addresses the real problems surrounding assault and the aftermath.” The event took place in Palisano on Thursday, March 22 from 5-7 p.m. and featured Parker’s personal testimony, a special performance by the CrescenDON’Ts, and a speech by Kaitlyn Richter, a crisis services advocate, on crisis services. Andrea Kraft, USA’s Public Health Committee Chair and organizer of TBTN, said the event’s main goals were to discuss the issue of sexual violence on college campuses, empower students to stand up against sexual violence and to let victims know they are not alone.

The event began with Richter sharing a few words about what she does at Canisius and how students can contact her if they find themselves in a harmful situation or are looking to report a crime. She can be reached in her office, Bosch 103, on Wednesdays and Thursdays or by appointment.

Shortly after, Parker approached the podium to share her experience with sexual assault for the first time. Parker was supported by her mother who traveled to Canisius to hear her speak. She began her story by explaining that her attacker seemed “normal.” The attack happened within her first month of college, three years ago. She was at a party she never wanted to be at in the first place. After the attacker coaxed her away from her friends, Parker said she was forced out of the party and taken to her attacker’s house.

The next morning, she recalled feeling numb. She told her RA, not knowing that her RA was a mandatory reporter who was obligated to report the crime. Shortly after, she was taken to a nearby hospital where she took a rape kit. During this process Parker’s family stayed in Buffalo with her for a week and eventually filed a police report. The case took months to process, but eventually, her attacker was expelled. Parker described the verdict as a small victory, and slowly but surely, she began feeling like herself again.

While Parker overcame her experience, she disclosed that she still suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and struggles with having to be surrounded places where she saw the perpetrator and was attacked. However, she does not let her pain fester. Rather, she expressed, “I was thinking about my pain the wrong way, it doesn’t have to burn in my heart and my mind forever, if I do something with it.”

Parker explained, “I learned that when I felt alone, scared or overwhelmed by badness in the world, I had two options: I could feel it and carry it with me, or I could do something. I could combat how much badness exists by creating more goodness; a smile shared, a compliment given, or even contributing to events like these that are encouraging and supportive.”

After sharing her testimony, she thanked everyone who had helped her through it including Dr. Terri L. Mangione, counselors and former director of Public Safety, Gary Everett, who gave her his personal cell phone number so she could call him any time she might find herself feeling unsafe on campus. Although Parker said everyone at Canisius had been helpful to her, she said the detectives on her case struggled to believe her story.

She concluded her speech by assuring audience members that if they were survivors, they were not alone. Parker explained, “The best thing I learned about pain is that you can very easily channel it into compassion.”  In an interview after the event, Parker said that three women came up to her and said that they had a similar experience. Parker talked in great detail about her pain and how turning it into compassion was something she felt she had to do in order to help others.

Commenting on the importance of the event, Kraft stated, “In terms of solidarity, having a group of students come together and listen to the story of a fellow student before reflecting on her experience and those of all other survivors is an extremely powerful portion of the event. I am hoping that people will leave the event tonight feeling empowered that they help prevent, educate, and support other students about sexual assault awareness.”

If you, or any student has experienced assault or know someone who has, please speak up and contact your RA, the Counseling Center, or Public Safety. You are not alone.

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