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Take Back the Night speaks out against violence

BY RACHEAL CUMMINGS | APRIL 22, 2009 7:26 AM

As recent events in our community show, violence is an ever-present problem, a problem that not only affects women, but also men — a problem that is rooted in our culture, in which media depictions of misogyny and violence are commonplace, in which media messages trick us into thinking that violence is acceptable and a normal thing. This is a myth that simply cannot be tolerated any longer. Sexual abuse and intimate-partner violence are two types of behavior that have long existed, especially in college towns with heavy binge drinking, where there are 35.3 incidents of sexual assault per 1,000 female students over a 6.91 month period and where on average, at least 50 percent of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol, according to the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Unfortunately, statistics by the National Center for Victims of Crime show that at least 1 in 4 college women will become victims of sexual assaults during their academic careers, and at least 10 percent of men will be raped in their lifetime.

The irony is that, despite perceptions that violence and misogyny are OK, the vast majority of men and women do not think this way. This is where Take Back the Night, a rally that provides a safe and supportive environment for survivors to reclaim their experiences and to send a message to the community that sexual assault and intimate-partner violence is never OK and will not be tolerated, enters. An annual event, Take Back the Night aims to involve the entire community: survivors, supporters of survivors, and those against violence. By rallying and supporting survivors, we make a stand against complacence. We can’t stop sexual abuse and domestic violence unless we stand up to false norms that say this is OK. The beauty of Take Back the Night is that it is open to everyone; regardless of one’s political party, sex, ethnicity, class, or religion. Everyone can agree that violence holds no place in our world. I am often asked what stake men have in ending violence, because women make up the majority of survivors. My answer: Besides being part of a vastly under-reported and under-discussed group of survivors of incest, molestation, sexual abuse, and violence, men have a stake in ending violence because not only are the women being abused the sisters, mothers, cousins, girlfriends, wives, and friends of men, but as Jackson Katz, who spoke at our campus last semester, said, “Most men are not rapists.” Yet despite the fact most men do not rape, most women and some men still feel afraid to walk alone or to be alone with unknown men (though 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance). This fear and the acceptance of violence in our culture puts the vast majority of men who do not commit violence in a precarious situation, where they are wrongly assumed to be violent or capable of harm. We need to embrace the positive attitudes most men hold towards women and empower them to speak up when they see negative attitudes and behavior.

Racheal Cummings is a member of Iowa Women Initiating Social Change of the Women’s Resource and Action Center.


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