NEW ORLEANS -- Hundreds of students gathered at Loyola University Thursday evening for the 25th annual "Take Back the Night" event and march, trying to give hope and a voice to victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence.
Students listened and watched as one courageous sexual assault and rape victim gave her heartbreaking testimony of tragedy and survival.
Loyola University freshman Jessamyn Reichmann is not a victim but wants her peers struggling through violent experiences to know, she hears you.
"I feel like, turning a blind eye, isn't really addressing the issue at all," Reichmann said.
"Take Back the Night" helps raise awareness about gender-based violence, hoping to empower survivors to speak out and receive help.
"I mean it's a really painful thing to go through, but everybody can heal and take that and you know, take that pain and make it into something meaningful and help other people," Patricia Boyett, Director of the
Women's Resource Center at Loyola University said.
Loyola partnered with nearby colleges and universities, including Dillard, Tulane, Xavier, University of New Orleans and Our Lady of Holy Cross College. Those who attended the event hope they can shed light on the violence that affects not only women but men as well.
"We as men have a lot of pride and I think that pride should be set aside so that we can bring awareness to the fact that men are sexually assaulted," Loyola freshman Joshua Hamilton said.
Attendees marched down St. Charles Avenue before taking part in an open mic night. Organizers and many in the crowd say speaking out, no matter how difficult it may be, is the first step towards healing and want victims to know there is nothing to be ashamed about.
"They can still be loved. They still have value. They're not devalued because they have been sexually assaulted or having sexual violence happen to them," Hamilton said.