A rainy day couldn’t dampen the urgency and enthusiasm of Take Back the Night.

People filled the atrium inside Franklin College’s Napolitan Student Center, ready to make their voices heard. They had come to the annual event to share their stories, to show their support and to bring awareness to the pervasive and destructive issue of sexual violence.

In extraordinary showings of strength, they spoke out about surviving the violence.

“Speak out. Be loud. Do not let trauma define you, and be your own advocate. I could have easily drowned in the darkness and lost who I was. I could have stayed quiet, stayed scared and lived in constant fear and anxiety forever,” said Kinley Shoemaker, a Franklin native, Miss Indiana Teen USA and survivor of sexual violence. “I could have let a lackluster justice system and misogynistic victim-blaming men shape who I was. Instead, I fought with what I felt was my dying breath.”

Students, community members and advocates came together Thursday for Take Back the Night. They heard stories from survivors, learned about resources available through local agencies and bonded over a shared commitment to eliminate sexual violence from our society.

The event, coordinated by Franklin College, ASSIST Indiana and Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, brought attention to a problem that too often lurks in the shadows.

“Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and domestic violence are often labeled ‘crimes of silence,’ because of their low reporting rates and social stigma around discussion,” said Maddie Cary, a Franklin College sophomore and founder of the campus group H.O.P.E., or Heal, Overcome, Persevere, Empower. “By shining a light on sexual violence, Take Back the Night helps survivors know they are not alone, that these crimes will not be tolerated, and we will not go silently into the night.”

Take Back the Night is an international campaign aimed at ending sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence. Rallies have been ongoing since the 1960s, and this was the sixth such event conducted in Franklin.

Plans had called for a rally at the college, followed by a vocal, visible march from campus to the county courthouse. Rain and wind forced organizers to adapt this year, holding the entire event inside the student center atrium.

But this didn’t change the enthusiasm of participants. That was evident in the testimony of Shoemaker, a Franklin Community High School graduate and current student at Butler University. Shoemaker shared painful recollections of her own sexual violence — of being violated by a classmate, to have to be around that perpetrator with no action taken against him, and the efforts of those she felt were on her side to downplay or quiet the incident.

Though it was difficult, she refused to give up, Shoemaker said.

“This is when I gained my voice, and it was pretty loud,” she said.

With the support of her mother, Shoemaker forcefully pushed school administrators, the justice system and more to act. After almost two years, her perpetrator was punished through the legal system.

During her remarks, Shoemaker read part of the statement she made during the trial of her abuser.

“I am no longer calling myself your victim. I am no longer powerless against you. I barely kept my head above water, but because I chose to be a survivor rather than a victim, I will do extraordinary things with my power,” she said.

Shoemaker’s resilience echoed the thoughts of Dottie Davis, the owner of Davis Corporate Training, a private training and consulting business. Davis has worked for the past three decades as a family violence trainer, training thousands of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, advocates and judges throughout the nation.The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence named her the 1998 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Davis, who was scheduled to speak Thursday at Take Back the Night, was unable to attend. But she sent a statement about her experience, which was read by Tracy McQueen, outreach coordinator for ASSIST Indiana.

Her words detailed her own experience as a survivor of sexual assault and intimate partner abuse — including the resistance she encountered from nearly all angles, from family members to law enforcement to strangers who approached her after she started to tell her story in 1992.

“I was so hopeful that day in that by sharing my truth, it would create momentum for others to be educated about sexual and domestic violence, and to be another champion in the fight to end the harm to women, men and children, as well as homicides in our state and nation,” Davis said in her statement. “Instead, I was faced with disbelief.”

Still, Davis kept speaking out, which offered a freedom that came from finding a community of survivors who had gone through their own violent nightmares. She emphasized her work with law enforcement to be better equipped to address domestic violence and sexual violence situations.

And she implored other men to be allies.

“Men must be willing to use their voice to confront other men who are committing harm. Men must be willing to understand that no means no. Men need to hold each other accountable for causing fear and intimidation — and not just during the nighttime hours,” Davis said in her statement.

She closed with a call to action.

“Do not let this one event be just that. Let this event be the beginning of a culture of change in your community in addressing intimate partner violence and sexual violence,” Davis said in her statement.

While Take Back the Night was about speaking out, it was also a chance to learn. Turning Point and ASSIST Indiana had tables set up with pamphlets, information and resources for people to take advantage of.

Participants grabbed slices of pizza from Greek’s Pizzeria and the Willard, while snacking on treats from Norma Jean’s Pastries and Sweet Lee Made. Brown County musician Sharianne Whetstine performed music, while people mingled and picked up information on a variety of services.

“We are here, we have food for you, goodies, and we’d love to talk to you on the side if you feel you’d like to share your story or get those resources to connect with us at a later time,” said Michele Lee, Johnson County community service director for Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.