Led by two police motorcycles, about 100 women — clutching shakers, beating drums and chanting “Two, four, six, eight, no more violence, no more rape!” — streamed down blocked-off streets of Ann Arbor Friday night.
Survivors of sexual assault and their supporters joined together to participate in “Take Back the Night,” an annual rally and march to raise awareness about sexual violence.
Cathryn Antkowiak-Howard, an organizer of the event who has participated in the rally since it started 26 years ago, said the purpose of the event is to call attention to the epidemic proportions to which rape has escalated. She cited a 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics report that concluded that one in four women and one in six men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.
The event began with music and speeches from Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and University alum Cristy Cardinal, director of education and volunteer services for the Domestic Violence Project/SAFE House.
Many students from universities across Michigan were present at the rally. While some students stopped to enjoy the live music, others came to Ann Arbor to show solidarity with the cause.
“Students from the University of Michigan came out to support our rally (in Ypsilanti), so we decided to come and support U-M’s rally as well,” Eastern Michigan University student Christine Fairbanks said.
Erin Lowry, a School of Social Work graduate student, said Take Back the Night is a way for survivors to cope with their personal tragedies. Some participants wore green ribbons around their arms to show they were not ashamed to be survivors of sexual assault.
“(This event) brings back a lot a memories, but we’re doing something positive with these memories,” Lowry said. “We’re taking all these emotions and coming together with other people to create change.”
Law student Amy Myers said the event attracts a variety of women, which in turn fosters an empowering environment.
“Each person brings powerful, positive emotions since they are all supporting each other,” she said. “There is something empowering about the physical activity of all these women getting together.”
LSA senior Jeff Rezmovic, president of Men Against Violence Against Women — a University student group committed to fighting violence against women through education and outreach programs aimed toward men — also spoke at the rally to illuminate the vital role men have in preventing sexual assault.
He said men do not have to take back the night, because they already own it.
“Men are in a unique position to do something, because the problem starts with men,” Rezmovic said. “We need to deal with the problem where the problem lies. … Therefore, we need to own up and end this.”
Rezmovic said he would participate in a dialogue with other men about men’s dual roles in sexual violence as both assailants and victims.
The event peaked with a march through the streets of Ann Arbor. Through her megaphone, Cardinal led the crowd in chants such as “This sexist shit has go to go, hey hey, ho ho” and “Out of your cars, into the streets, take back the night.”
The marchers were cheered on and given the thumbs-up from Ann Arbor drivers and pedestrians as they made their way down Liberty Street.
University alum Lori Fithian — one of the more conspicuous figures in the crowd as she pushed her trash can drum emblazoned with peace signs on a dolly — provided many of the noisemaking instruments for the event.
She said she brought approximately 50 hand-held drums, 50 different household objects such as pots and pans and 150 shakers to distribute among the marchers.
The noise abruptly stopped when the marchers progressed to Madison Street. From there until they reached the Michigan Union, the marchers linked arms and remained silent to show solidarity for the cause.
After the march, participants assembled for a candlelight vigil to reflect on the emotions of the night.
— Olga Mantilla contributed to this report