Donning posters stating “One in four is too many” and “Stop rape now,” a crowd of about 200 gathered on the Diag Friday night for the 23rd annual Take Back the Night rally. The event, organized by the Ann Arbor Coalition Against Rape and University Women Against Rape, sought to empower the community to take action against acts of sexual violence.
Ann Arbor resident Katherine Drumright spoke to the crowd as a survivor of sexual assault. Molested at age four, Drumright said she continued on a path of self-destruction including drug and alcohol abuse and depression.
Drumright said she wanted “to talk to someone but didn’t know who to talk to.” After she was clean for nine months, the issues of her sexual abuse surfaced and she felt if she did not get her story out she would return to drugs.
Drumright said she was afraid to reveal to people what happened to her. She was finally able to deal with her past after meeting with a counselor through the Touchstone Program, a therapeutic support group out of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center which aids female survivors of sexual assault.
Drumright advised friends of victims of sexual assault to encourage victims to seek treatment.
LSA senior Ben Osborne, a spokesman for Men Against Violence Against Women, also emphasized the need for men to speak out against sexual assault.
“It’s sometimes not culturally acceptable to speak out,” he said. “You can’t remain silent about these things.” Osborne added that he hopes everyone – men and women – can join forces to stop acts of violence.
“It takes a strong man to stand by a strong woman,” he said.
Ann Arbor resident Darren Schoen agreed the issue needs to be addressed by both genders. He said many men are intimidated by rallies like Take Back the Night.
“They’re just thinking it’s females who are against males. It’s not. It’s people against sexual assault,” he said. He added that gatherings such as Take Back the Night bring sexual assault into the public spotlight.
“(Rallies are) effective for women to come together and unite in a way that is very empowering,” said one LSA junior who requested to remain anonymous.
The inclusion of men and women in the audience was encouraging to survivor and social worker Diane Moore.
“I look out at this group and I feel so supported,” she said. She was first sexually assault at age four and she said the definition of sexual assault does not need to be specified in order for the form of violence to matter. After suffering through years of sexual violence inflicted by both men and women, Moore said she started to self-destruct by the time she entered college.
Despite her initial reluctance, Moore said she eventually entered the Touchstone Program.
“I learned the most important thing anyone can learn, and that’s to love myself,” she said.
“If you’ve been hurt, it’s not your fault,” Moore added. She emphasized the need for women’s strength regarding these issues.
Moore’s stance corresponded with that of Congresswoman Lynn Rivers (D-Mich.), who stressed the importance of women’s vote. Rivers said voting is a means of affecting the laws and decisions regarding violence against women.
“When women vote, women take back the night,” she said.
“The message is simple,” said Anna Phillips, a Law student who helped organize the event. “No one deserves to be raped, deserves to be beaten.”
About one in four women and one in six men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, according to a statement by the Ann Arbor Coalition Against Rape. Seventy percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim.