Rally combats violence after dark

Joe Carlson

and Nancy Ngo

The most visible display of Sexual Assault Awareness Month at the University happened Wednesday night in the dark.
“Let’s all unite! Take back the night!” chanted an exuberant crowd of about 120 participants who marched down University Avenue.
The Take Back The Night march and rally, which attracted people from both sexes and all races, began at Williams Arena and ended at Coffman Memorial Union. According to organizers, the purpose of the march and rally was to empower women, children and other members of the community to walk safely at night.
“It gives me strength,” said Terri Wenkman, a senior in family social science who is in the Program Against Sexual Violence. “Honestly, as a student at the University, I have felt afraid to walk around at night.”
Although event organizers recognize that violent assaults occur at all times of day, Take Back The Night is particularly focused on crimes committed under the cover of darkness. University Patrolman Lee North, who also attended the event, said the majority of violent assaults he has seen at the University have occurred at night.
“I’ve been a cop for 29 years and I’ve never taken a sexual assault report that didn’t happen at night,” North said. “The predators come out at night.”
North said that although he was inspired by the number of people who turned out for the event, it was a relatively low turnout considering the large number of students on campus at night.
“People just tend to pass it off as something that can’t happen to them,” he said. “You hear statements like, `This kind of stuff doesn’t happen here.'”
The organizers of the event focus on a particular aspect of violence each year. This year the theme was stereotypes in violence. Speakers at the rally addressed common misconceptions about gender, sexual preferences, race and ethnicity.
Emily Nelson, a representative from the University Young-Women which helped organize the event, said event organizers sought a diverse range of speakers this year. Mainly, it was because they wanted to combat the common myth that only able-bodied, heterosexual white women are victims of rape.
“People that are disabled, of other sexual preferences, and people of different races (also) get raped,” Nelson said.
One of the speakers was Roxanne Gould, director of the American Indian Learning Resource Center. She addressed stereotypes about Native American women.
She cited mostly cases in Iowa in which nighttime violence caused the death of some Native American women, which she says relate directly to this year’s theme. “I believe that the court system, the police and the community have stereotypes (that) women are sometimes deserving of their deaths.”
An example of these incidents, which was highlighted at this year’s event was an effort called Justice for Kim, a campaign aimed originally at finding financial resources to file a wrongful death suit against the Sioux City, Iowa police department.
Kimberly Frazier was a Native American woman who was shot and killed by Sioux City police in 1995. Officers say that Frazier lunged at them with a knife, but witnesses of the incident disagree, claiming that she was trying to abandon the knife.
The incident was eventually dismissed by the county court in Iowa.
Others at the rally anticipated particular stereotypes they wanted to learn more about in order to combat them.
“I’m really interested in some of the (Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/ Transgender) issues. By getting messages mainstream, it’s easier to talk about them,” said Stacy Greenfield, a representative for the Minnesota Women’s Center, which helped organize the event.
“Like when I hear homophobic statements, I can call people on that.”
But because stereotypes and violence exist everywhere, Take Back The Night does, too. The event originally began in Germany in the 1970s, and soon spread to the United States.
“There’s one of these in every big city,” in the United States such as Boston, New York and San Francisco, Wenkman said.
North said that the event would also help cross several barriers based on the different people who attended and the heavy media coverage.
“This should get (the issue) out statewide,” he said. “A lot of people are going to be seeing this.”