UI, Iowa City communities marches to raise awareness of sexual assault


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Crowds began to gather Tuesday as dusk fell upon the Pentacrest. In front of the crowd, local women stood before a microphone and shared stories of sexual assault against them or their loved ones.


The rally was one part of Take Back the Night — a nationwide movement aiming to raise awareness of violence against women — held for its 33rd year at the UI. The event was held by community women's advocacy groups, including the UI Women's Resource and Action Center, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, and Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa.

"It's a chance for us all to commit to each other and keep each other safe, " said Linda Stewart Kroon, the director of WRAC.

Susan Junis, the RVAP education coordinator, said many students frequently feel unsafe walking around campus alone at night.

"To 'take back the night' is symbolic for offering people a chance to feel safe, to be out in the community and know that there are people in the community who want them to be safe," Junis said.

Junis said many people in downtown Iowa City participate in negative behavior such as catcalling and pressuring women into activities they are not comfortable with.

"We want to send the message that we won't tolerate street harassment," she said. "We won't tolerate those who don't ask for consent."

Take Back the Night's focus, she said, is on perpetrators.

"It is not the responsibility for victims or potential victims to keep themselves safe," she said.

UI junior Katie Jensen, the press liaison for the event, said the town's bar culture may contribute to harassment on campus.

"It does not affect just those who are perpetrated against, it affects the community, because it creates an unsafe environment," she said.

UI junior Megan Leyden, a member of Iowa Women Initiating Social Change, said she agreed the town's bar scene could lead to possibly dangerous situations.

"I definitely think [campuses] are more dangerous," Leyden said. "Especially since there are so many bars here and there are so many people in this really small community. It doesn't matter how drunk you are, what you are wearing, or what you are doing. [Street harassment] shouldn't be an issue in the first place."

Though Take Back the Night was founded in 1975 to focus on women's activism, Jensen said, advocacy programs at the UI aim to expand its focus.

"This year, we are trying to make it a more inclusive environment: men, women, gay, straight," she said. "Domestic violence happens to anyone."

Regardless of the situation, Junis said, it is important for people to practice consent and respect in their actions and relationships.

"We see a chance for people who are survivors and their loved ones to have a space where the community comes together in support of reducing the violence and healing the victims," she said.

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