Kadena Air Base unites together to Take Back the Night
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Voices shatter the silence of the night. The sharp piercing sound of cowbells and clappers echoes through the streets. A voice booms over the loudspeaker of a patrol car as marchers are illuminated by headlights and streetlights. Signs held proudly, they chant.
"Yes means yes! No means no! However we dress! Wherever we go!"
Each step they took meant something, each chant they yelled was for someone and each sign they held turned heads. On a Friday night on Kadena Air Base men and women united together to march against sexual assault.
Service members and civilians rallied against sexual assault together during the 18th Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office's Take Back the Night march.
"Take Back the Night is a rally, a march and a time to reflect for survivors of sexual assault," explained Laurie Scudder, 18th Wing SAPR specialist. "For those of us that support the survivors, it is an opportunity to say we're not going to allow sexual assault in our community."
Before the march began, Brig. Gen. Barry R. Cornish, 18th Wing commander, thanked those participating in the event.
"What it's all about is awareness," Cornish said. "Because of the importance placed on this topic, the good news is reporting is up and prevalence is down and the better news is that because of people like you focused on this issue it's only going to get better. I thank you for the time to focus on this cause."
Led by an 18th Security Forces Squadron patrol car covered in teal ribbons, the participants marched from the Schilling Community Center parking lot toward Chapel 2 with noise makers and cowbells, while chanting, symbolizing survivors reclaiming the night, the time when sexual assaults are most likely to occur.
Heads turned and traffic came to a standstill as people marched down the streets. United they chanted, "We are women. We are men. Together we fight. Together we take back the night."
As the march concluded at Chapel 2, the marchers were greeted by victim advocates and volunteers. They were handed candles and stood together in the darkness of the chapel courtyard. There they heard the story of Master Sgt. Joseph Mageau, 18 Civil Engineer Group first sergeant.
Mageau told them about his experience with sexual assault, how he had witnessed it happen to someone he loved and cared about. As he concluded his story the marchers reflected in the silence of the darkened court yard. Participants were told to think about those they knew that had experienced sexual assault. The courtyard was silent, each person alone in the darkness with their own thoughts.
After the period of reflection, victim advocates lit the candles that were held and each person in turn lit each other's. Together they were illuminated and together they had banished the darkness of the courtyard.
The event proceeded into the chapel, where Desiree Santillan, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent, spoke to the marchers about the importance of mandatory reporting. How leaders can make the difference even though it may be hard or cause them difficulty.
After she spoke, all the mandatory reporters were required to leave and the survivor and supporter speak-out portion began.
"It's an emotionally charged time; there's energy in the room," Scudder said. "It really is amazing for people to get up and share an intimate thing. For them to know they are not alone, that there is support and that we believe them."
Sexual assault can happen to anyone and affects everyone.
"Whether it is a personal victimization, a close friend, a loved one or a family member that has been a victim of sexual violence, it's too often that we don't know that this has happened," Scudder said. "You are not alone. You are not to blame and you have nothing to be ashamed of."
United and together, Kadena Air Base rallied against sexual assault and took back the night.