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Marchers demand end to domestic, sexual violence

BY CAITLIN LOMBARDO | APRIL 24, 2009 7:32 AM

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Nearly 90 people gathered on the Pentacrest on Thursday night, yelling such chants as, “No means no, it don’t mean maybe. Don’t touch me, my name ain’t baby.”

Intended as a protest against those who commit domestic and sexual crimes and a way to support those who have survived abuse, the annual Take Back the Night event featured a march across downtown Iowa City and speakers who gave encouragement to victims and survivors.

“Every two minutes, a women is assaulted in the United States,” said UI student Racheal Cummings, a volunteer with Iowa Women Initiating Social Change, noting the rape whistles some in the crowd had. “We blow these whistles to symbolize that event.”

The protest began on the Pentacrest, where male and female cut-outs of varying ages featured the stories of Iowa citizens affected by sexual and domestic violence.

The crowd then marched through downtown, shouting chants and pumping signs with phrases such as “Adam and Even” and “Consent is Sexy.” By the time they stopped in front of the Sheraton Hotel on the Pedestrian Mall, the group had nearly 120 people.

The march ended back at the steps of the Old Capitol, where victims and survivors shared personal stories of perseverance and comforted those in the crowd who had experienced an assault. Some speakers asked those suffering in silence to speak out.

Jerrod Koon, the coordinator of the UI Men’s Antiviolence Council, said men and women need to work together to eliminate domestic and sexual violence.

“We need to listen and get involved,” he said. “Listen as men and women.”

Other speakers, such as UI student Angela Gadzik, also a volunteer with Iowa Women Initiating Social Change, spoke about owning who she has become through her experiences.

“I don’t like having to use the word victim or survivor,” said Gadzik, an event organizer. “But I do have to own that as part of who I am.”

In speeches, participants demanded safer streets for women and domestic violence awareness. The annual event is sponsored by the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, Iowa Women Initiating Social Change, and other groups.

Take Back the Night blossomed from an early London protest in 1877, when women were protesting because of a fear of violence at night. The idea was picked up again in 1976 in Europe.

“Women attending the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women lit candles and marched in the nighttime streets of Belgium,” said Iowa Women Initiating Social Change member Ashley Swank. “Tonight we break the silence.”

The event ended with a speech and sung verses from Karla Miller, executive director of RVAP.
“You can’t just take my dreams away, not with me watching,” she sang. “You can’t take my dreams away without me fighting, no you can’t just take my dreams away.”


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