CLINTON — Sexual assault is often a difficult subject to talk about.

That certainly was the case Wednesday when Kelly McReynolds and Krystina Ayala stood at the center of a room with more than 40 people watching and listening.

“Something like that (sexual assault) will never leave you; it will change you,” Ayala said. “But it’s not the end. You are still the same person. You can still have the same hopes and dreams you once had.”

Those words resonated through the air like a thick fog and when it was her turn to speak, McReynolds fought back emotion as she conveyed the scene of her attack.

Dion Williams was listening.

As one of a handful of men who attended Wednesday’s Take Back the Night event sponsored by SafePath Survivor Resources of Family Resources, he felt it was his duty to support the message being delivered.

“The message is deep,” Williams said. “I take it to heart, as a criminal justice major, that women don’t get acknowledged enough for the crimes being committed against them.”

Many others felt the same compassion while the two survivors told their stories of struggle, pain and fear. But that wasn’t the meaning behind Wednesday’s event.

In her closing statements, Nicole Cisne Durbin, director of SafePath Survivor Resources, made sure hope and inspiration were the feelings that people left with.

“That’s why we’re all here, doing this work in this community and why we’re all here tonight,” Durbin said. “To make sure the survivors’ needs are met and supported.”

One thing that especially pleased Durbin during Wednesday’s event was the attendance, and the demographic of people who attended.

Of the approximately 40 people in attendance, nearly half were students of Ashford University — which is exactly why Take Back the Night has taken place at the school for the last five years.

To Durbin and SafePath survivor advocate Rebecca Kroeger, reaching an audience of young people is one of the most essential pieces to their mission.

“Events like this are helping to change the rape culture of our society,” Kroeger said.

Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at amykent@clintonherald.com.

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