April 18, 2005

Students March, Protest Violence

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“Yes means yes, no means no, whatever we wear, wherever we go,” chanted approximately 60 Cornell students as they marched from Ho Plaza down to the Commons on Friday evening. Friday marked Take Back the Night, the annual march and rally to protest sexual assault and violence against all, promote community awareness and give a voice to survivors.

The march began in three different locations at 7:00 p.m. before it converged into one large group for the rally on the Commons, which began at 7:30. Many Cornell students started marching at the Ho Plaza location, while other people originated at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and at Ithaca College. The end result was a group of hundreds of people that consisted of Cornell students, Ithaca College students and many other members of the Ithaca community. The rally included speakers, musical performances, slam poetry and information about community resources.

When people first arrived at the Commons, they were offered an array of items such as blue armbands signifying alliance with the cause, purple armbands signifying one’s survival of a sexual assault, stickers promoting TBTN and purple wrist bands containing the words “bravery,” “hope,” “endurance” and “courage”.

“One in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before they are old enough to vote,” said Maria Coles, acting mayor of Ithaca, who was one of the first speakers of the night. She told the crowd several shocking statistics, including that “every 2.5 minutes another person is assaulted.”

The goal is to “create an atmosphere of zero tolerance of violence against women, children and men … where all people can walk without fear through the streets,” Coles said. She then went on to proclaim to a cheering crowd that April 15, 2005 was “a day to take back the night in the city of Ithaca.”

“Take Back the Night is actually a national movement that started in Germany in 1973 in response to a series of sexual assaults, rapes and murders,” said Carolyn Turett ’02, the Adult Community Educator at the Advocacy Center in Ithaca. She went on to say that “the first take back the night in the United States was held in San Francisco in 1978, and more than 5,000 women representing 30 states joined the event.”

Turett said that TBTN has been going on in Ithaca for more than 20 years. She explained that her role is to be an advisor and supervisor for the TBTN Collective, which “does the planning for the event, but is predominantly made up of students from Ithaca College and Cornell.” They also open up the planning to anyone else in the community who wants to help out. Originally the event focused mostly on violence occurring at night against women, but the event now has a larger focus.

“We emphasize that sexual violence is non-discriminatory — it crosses all lines of race, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression,” Turret said. She said that now people realize that violence happens during the day and not only at night.

Turett said that “Take Back the Night always has a strong showing of college students,” which was evident from the turnout on the Commons. Many of the people there were from Cornell and Ithaca College, including Emily Marchese ’05, who led the cheers during the march from Ho Plaza.

“I’m a feminist and I think this is one of the most important issues for women of our time — stopping violence against women,” Marchese said. She also indicated that this was her third year participating in the march.

Another Cornell student, Jamie Gullen ’07, was also in attendance. Gullen, the co-president of Students Acting for Gender Equality, said that the group has been working with the Women’s Resource Center to plan the event.

“It’s really important that we recognize this is still a problem,” Gullen said, making special reference to Cornell’s recent issues like the “Collegetown Creeper”.

Nate Felton, an Ithaca College student and one of the few males in attendance said he was there to support “a few friends who were raped in the past.”

The event “promotes unity and a feeling that everyone has a common bond and a necessity to fight the problems of domestic violence and rape … it’s silly when [sexual assault] is affecting people’s friends [and they choose not to support the cause]. I feel that more men and women should support this,” Felton said.

Turret also spoke of the prevalence of sexual assault and domestic violence in explaining the role of the Advocacy Center.

“In 2004, the Advocacy Center provided services to 1,400 Tompkins County residents of all ages who have experienced the emotional and physical impacts of domestic violence, child sexual abuse and sexual assault,” she said. She explained that these issues are extremely under-reported and many people are afraid to speak out about their experience or are unaware of the services available to them.

“We live in a society that leans towards blaming the victim — why were you out at night by yourself? What were you wearing? Well, you were drinking, weren’t you? – So it is not surprising that it is so difficult for survivors of violence to speak out,” Turret said.

The Advocacy Center has a 24-hour hotline that people can call when they want to speak to a trained counselor. The advocates accompany survivors to the hospital, police or court, “which can help make the experience less overwhelming,” Turett said. The advocates can also provide ongoing long-term emotional support for a survivor.

The point of TBTN is to “recognize that all of us have the right to demand to live without fear and violence,” Turret said. She said that she thought the night was a great success.

Archived article by Rachel Nayman
Sun Contributor