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Men and women gather to 'Take back the night'

BY MADISON BENNETT | APRIL 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Holding vibrantly colored signs and chanting loudly, roughly 100 women and men marched around downtown Iowa City on Thursday.

"Two, four, six, eight," they shouted. "No more date rape."

"We have the power. We have the right. The streets are ours. Take back the night."

The annual Take Back the Night rally denounced sexual violence and promoted spreading awareness about the issue.

"The idea is there's a lot of power in numbers, and there's a lot of power in sharing experiences that make people realize they're not the only one," said Laurie Haag, a program developer for the University of Iowa Women's Resource and Action Center.

Haag's organization's volunteer group, Iowa Women Initiating Social Change, sponsored Take Back the Night. The event was split into three parts: the rally, the march, and the speak out.

Katie Koestner, the executive director of Take Back the Night nationally, believes "all human beings have the right to be free from violence, the right to be heard, and the right to reclaim those rights if they are violated," she wrote in an e-mail.

At 6:30 p.m., roughly 100 people gathered on the Pentacrest lawn to hear speakers and get ready for the night's main event, the march.

For around 30 minutes, those women and men walked around central Iowa City, yelling chants for downtown meanders to hear.



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Then at 8:30, the participants recongregated in the Pentacrest to hear victims of violence tell their stories.

Approximately 10 women and men walked up to the microphone and shared their stories with the audience. In the back, buttons in different languages to remind people that sexual violence happens everywhere, lay on a table for people to take. Sisters and two of the rally's "radical cheerleaders" Margaret and Kate Vohs sat in the brisk night air with the symbol of feminism painted on their cheeks as they listened to women share their stories.

One woman played guitar and sang a folk song about staying strong in the face of violence.

UI sophomore Margaret Vohs said at times she was "moved to tears."

"A lot of us know women that have been in that situation," she said.

Despite the personal message, Take Back the Night rallies have a national presence.

"Rape is not just an issue for Iowa City, or an issue for America," Haag said. "It's used as a tool against women internationally."

Take the Night started in 1976 as a reference to the way women have historically been afraid to walk alone at night, and it has since gained an international presence.

"These rallies continue because the problem of violence on our campuses is still with us," said Linda Stewart Kroon, the WRAC director. "The rate of violence has stayed fairly steady."

Organizers said people didn't talk about rape in the 1970s, when the event started, but that's changed.

"I forget in between rallies how powerful and how important it is for women to hear each other's stories," said Haag. "Listening to people speak tonight, it makes me realized why we do this."


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