HONESDALE, PA — On a humid, overcast Wednesday evening, Michele Minor Wolf of the Victims Intervention Program (VIP) stood on the front steps of the Wayne County Courthouse …
HONESDALE, PA — On a humid, overcast Wednesday evening, Michele Minor Wolf of the Victims Intervention Program (VIP) stood on the front steps of the Wayne County Courthouse and opened up the county’s Take Back the Night. The pandemic forced attendees to gather outdoors and several feet apart, rather than in the more intimate setting of The Cooperage Project on Main Street, where it’s usually held. But after COVID-19 canceled the event last year, Minor Wolf was determined to make the necessary accommodations to avoid skipping it again. Minor Wolf said that the event, a safe venue for survivors of sexual violence and harassment to get behind a microphone and share their stories, each year inspires new community members to seek VIP’s services.
“For those of you here tonight who haven’t done any healing work, please know that it is not your fault, ever, no matter what,” Minor Wolf said. “And to those speaking tonight: You may not know the names of the people you’re helping, but after tonight, we will be contacted by new survivors who were inspired by the strength you’ve shown tonight.”
Take Back the Night events first began in the 1970s, originating as demonstrations and marches protesting violence against women in San Francisco and Philadelphia. Since then, the movement has grown to a global scale, with a myriad of marches, vigils and rallies taking place annually throughout the world. Some of the early organizers have turned the movement into a nonprofit organization using the same name, with the mission of ending “sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence.”
Minor Wolf took the night as an opportunity to talk about sexual violence in the U.S. prison system, noting VIP provides services to people incarcerated in correctional facilities throughout Wayne and Pike counties. Congress has passed legislation like the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003; however, Minor Wolf says that the problem is far from eliminated. Prisoners who report instances of rape likely fear facing retaliation from other inmates in the facility, Minor Wolf said and shared the statistic that one in 10 former adult state inmates report being sexually abused while in custody.
“What is the take-away from that? Sexual harassment, assault and abuse can happen to anyone; it’s not OK, it’s never OK and it’s never the victim’s fault,” Minor Wolf said.
The names and stories of the survivors who spoke during the event are not being printed in order to protect their privacy.