Taking Back the Night

Bryce Parr –

Menomonie is ready for a discussion on sexual assault according to University of Wisconsin-Stout Student Ryan Leckel, and Leckel hopes to offer a platform for discussion and healing at the “Menomonie Take Back the Night” event.

The event will be held at the Raw Deal on April 2 during Sexual Assault Awareness Month’s Day of Action. Starting at 7:30 p.m., there will be speakers, an open-mic and information on local support and advocacy agencies. The event will end with a march to the clock tower at 9:30 p.m. for a candle-light vigil. The event is in collaboration with The Clothesline Project. Attendees will have the opportunity to express their experiences on a t-shirt that will be displayed around the community during April.

Leckel, a senior in the applied social science program, has been studying sexual violence in Menomonie for over a year and a half. According to Leckel’s research, Menomonie has a problem with sexual assault compared to other college towns. His findings report at least 119 assaults between 2008 and 2018, excluding 2009.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. They also report that in 8 out of 10 cases, the victim knew the perpetrator.  “People are in pain, and they have and are experiencing trauma at the hands of other people in the community,” Leckel said. “Sexual violence is an issue in any community, but having the painful conversations allow us to be honest.” The NSVRC also reports that more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. Leckel hopes that the event will help those experiencing sexual violence speak openly.

Leckel believes that his research is the first step for his work in the community. “It wasn’t enough to talk about it as a researcher. We had to do something applicable and meaningful,” Leckel said. He began planning the event in October of last year and partnered with Alison Lavato at the beginning of the semester. “[Lavato] is incredibly compassionate and driven when it comes to tackling these issues,” Leckel said.

UW-Stout Student Ellen St. George thinks the event is a good way for the community to acknowledge the problems we face today. “I think that overall society has lived through a more masculine lens in terms of social norms. Within the past 50 or 60 years we’ve really been questioning that. We realized that a lot of the norms aren’t ok.” St. George said.

According to Leckel, the first step to involvement is being introspective. He wants people to think about their own sexual interactions and consider if they have ever been in a situation where consent was unclear. Leckel also wants people to consider if people feel comfortable disclosing to them and to examine how Menomonie fosters a supporting community for those who have experienced trauma.

Anyone interested is encouraged to stop in. “It’s a great opportunity to learn more.  Even if you only learn about the organizations in Menomonie for support. That’s something important, either for you or for someone you care about,” Leckel said.