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Taking back the night

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | APRIL 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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Chants rang through Phillips Hall, while students and community members held signs and demanded for their right to once again, take back the night.

These UI students and Iowa City residents fought a rainy Thursday night during the annual event Take Back the Night, which includes marches, rallies, and vigils around the country to push for the end of sexual violence.

“We see you, we hear you, and we care about you,” said Linda Kroon, the director of Women’s Resource Action Center.  “Tonight is an important night. Tonight we create a safe and healing space to listen with respect and compassion to those stories who are spoken loud.”

Iowa City community members have participated in Take Back the Night since the mid-1970s. At that time, women were beginning to take an active step to speak out about their attackers in a more public forum. The annual event is coordinated by the Rape Victim Advocacy Program and the Women’s Resource Action Center every April, because it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

This year, WRAC member Stacia Scott described how the issue has become a larger topic of conversation throughout campus and the community.  

“There are many talking about sexual assault for the first time, all because we do not tolerate sexual violence,” she said. “… Transforming our campus will come from our willingness to step in, step out, and to step up to mobilize our peers, engaging intervention, embracing our allies, and building open and collaborative relations with our administrations.”

There have been 12 reported sexual assaults on the UI campus this year, and a number of steps have been implemented by UI President Sally Mason to combat sexual assault.

On Monday, two people were elected to head the first-ever UI President’s Student Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct.  

Other action steps include increased funding for an additional Nite Ride van and updated requirements on warning notices sent to the university community.

The annual event focuses on survivors sharing experiences.

RVAP Assistant Director Karen Siler said the event is an opportunity for victims to speak out and create awareness about sexual violence.  

“It is an opportunity for survivors to talk about their experience and their story, but also a time for the rest of the community to give their support,” she said.  “… My impression is that there is a lot more conversation on campus and in the community about sexual assault, and I think it will affect participation.”  

RVAP education coordinator Susan Junis said even though more people are speaking out about sexual assault, she wants to make sure everyone is seeing the issue through.

“If we want to continue without the ground falling out from under us, we need to have the sustainability and intersectional approach for this movement,” she said.  

Junis said with the recent actions that have been made on campus and in the community are first steps, but there is more to be done.

“Right now, there is justifiable anger happening in our community, but we need to make sure that anger doesn’t turn into cynicism,” she said.


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