20th Take Back the Night event held in Joliet

Joliet-area community shows support for those who experienced violence

The Joliet Herald-News

hn-2016-4At the age of 22, Brittany Brooks of Joliet found herself in a relationship she could not fix with an ex-boyfriend she could not help.

She was stalked and intimidated, and even though her family tried to help, they said it was too late, and Brooks was found murdered in 2009 in a park in the Rockdale area.

Brooks’ family remembered and marched for her Sunday alongside more than 100 others who had been affected by violence in Will County. St. John Lutheran Church in Joliet was the site of the 20th Take Back the Night march, where people gathered to remember, offer support and learn about violence to women and children.

hn-2016-5Event co-chairwoman Amirrah Abou-Youssef said the goal of the evening was to express that domestic violence, violence and sexual crimes aren’t welcome in Joliet area communities, to show that hope has not been lost and to extend a hand to those who need the help.

“This was important to Joliet because domestic violence has touched the community in a big way. We want to show that Joliet is the forefront of support to survivors through its agencies and not to victim shame, but lift up the survivors,” Abou-Youssef said.

In the lobby of the church, advocacy organizations in Will County offered a listening ear and information to keep or pass along to someone who may need help. Domestic violence survivor Kristy O’Malley said she lived in the area for seven years and was not aware of any shelter or hotline she could turn to when she faced violence, so awareness needs to be a priority to stop the crimes.

hn-2016-6“My son and I are here tonight because if we would not have found Guardian Angel [Community Services] and its Groundwork program, we may not be here today,” O’Malley said, adding that police contacted the shelter about her situation after a 911 call.

Guest speaker Karli Johnson, who endured dating violence, rape and trauma while she attended college, has taken her experiences around the country to empower women.

She said her low point was not the rape itself or the prior years of abuse and trauma, but after her rape when she was in a place where she wished she was dead. It was at a Take Back the Night march on campus where she found her voice.

“When one person shares their story, when one person reaches out for help, it gives bravery and courage for others to share,” Johnson said. “We won’t be silenced. Tonight we will be heard and take back every night.”

The room fell silent as a memorial candle was lit and carried down the aisle, and one by one, the names of women and children who were killed by violence over the past 20 years in Will County were called out as a representative stood in their place.

Afterward, the march took to the streets of Joliet as survivors and those representing victims who can no longer speak for themselves held signs and walked up and down Plainfield Road.