APR 2001


Ann Arbor Coalition against Rape (AACAR)

University Women against Rape (UWAR)


[Editor’s Note: As background for the article here, here is the press release offered by the organizers of this year’s Take Back The Night Rally and March. Since they rest their plans on last year’s policies, I append last year’s more detailed press release in the second and third columns of this page.]

In a continued effort to eradicate sexualized violence, members of the greater Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti community will come together to attend the 22nd annual Take Back the Night March and Rally [see right for info].

Since 1978, Take Back the Night has provided a forum for hundreds of survivors, activists, and supporters representing the community to demand that sexualized violence not be tolerated. During the rally survivors tell their stories, musicians and poets express their experiences, and this year we welcome Denise Diggs-Taylor as our activist speaker. Following the rally, participants take to the streets with voices raised in an act of solidarity to protest sexual victimization in all forms.

While Take Back the Night marches initially began as protests against the sexual victimization of women, AACAR and UWAR recognize that sexualized violence is used as a tool to oppress many other populations as well. Following a very successful 2000 event, AACAR and UWAR have again voted to make the march open to anyone who has experienced sexual victimization, their loved ones, and supporters who wish to add their voice in our demonstration.

Take Back the Night benefits the community at large by creating an opportunity for community members to speak out against sexualized violence and providing an environment of awareness, healing, and empowerment. We hope all those interested will join us in making this year’s Take Back the Night the most powerful ever!

The Take Back The Night rally and march are protests against sexualized violence in our community, country, and world. As sexualized violence, we protest rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and violence due to one’s perceived sexual orientation or gender. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates 18% of all women have experienced a completed or attempted rape; 54% of these women survived their first rape or rape attempt prior to the age of 18. ["Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey." U.S. Department of Justice, Violence Against Women Office, November 1998.] The prevalence and atrocity of sexualized violence should motivate each of us to speak out and protest these injustices.

The rally brings together musicians, artists, activists, and survivors to speak out against sexualized violence. Previous rallies have featured spoken word poets, all-women drum circles, and moving stories of survival and vitality. This year’s rally promises to be empowering and educational for all who attend. Each year, the rally includes a statement of demands to achieve a violence-free society and world.

The march that immediately follows the rally then strides through the streets of Ann Arbor. Participants in the march chant, shout, and sing their opposition to sexualized violence in a powerful, exuberant "taking back" of the night. A group of peacekeepers and counselors accompany the marchers, assuring a safe-space for all participants and support for survivors. "The Take Back The Night march reclaims the spaces taken away by the ever-present threat of violence," said Anna Phillips, an organizer of this year’s march, "while celebrating our collective strength, and the strength of those who marched before us."

This year [2000], the march will be open to all people for the first time ever in Ann Arbor. The decision to allow any participant to join in the traditionally "women-only" march came from a heart-felt dialogue amongst the organizers of the march, students, and members of the Ann Arbor and larger Washtenaw community. In our consensus, the Take Back The Night rally and march should serve as a protest and action against sexualized violence in our community. We invite every member of our community to participate in this action, as sexualized violence harms all of us, whether as survivors, friends and family of a survivor, or as citizens outraged by the existence of sexualized violence around us.

We also recognize the difficulties, if not the impossibility, of defining who is, or is not, a "woman." Gender identity is fluid, and cannot be perceived with a simple glance. Recourse to biology, to separating the females from the males, would conflate sex into gender identity and [recourse to biology] would ignore Ann Arbor’s strong and vibrant transgender community. We take the distinction and difference between sex and gender, and the mosaic of gender identity, as central principles of our feminism; these principles leave us little basis by which to separate the "women" from the "men."

We also hope the move to an all-inclusive march will serve as a statement against the gendering of sexualized violence. Although men commit the clear majority of sexualized violence against women, women also survive violence at the hands of other women. A 1992 study found domestic violence to occur in approximately 25% of lesbian relationships, near the rate for heterosexual couples. [Renzetti, Claire. Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1992.]

Transgender violence remains an often ignored, under-studied, yet deeply troubling problem for our community. A 1997 study found the murders of 14 transgendered people in the United States, a rate of over 1 per month. Nearly 20% of the transgendered people surveyed in the study reported being assaulted with a weapon. Moreover, strangers committed 50% of the incidents reported, and 65% of all incidents occurred in non-private locations, such as the streets, parks, bars, stores, and restaurants. [Wilchins, Riki. "First National Survey of Transgender Violence". GenderPAC.] Men experience sexualized violence as well, often as children, or as victims of "gay-bashing," which we recognize as a form of sexualized violence to be confronted. As Cathryn Antkowiak-Howard, a long-time participant in Ann Arbor’s marches, remarks, "In the year 2000, we cannot ignore the 1 in 4 women and the 1 in 6 men who are survivors of sexualized violence. We must take a stand against sexualized violence against anyone."

The White Ribbon Campaign (Men Against Violence Against Women) is organizing an alternative event during the march. Also all-inclusive, the event will focus on how men specifically can change their own lives to help put an end to violence against women. "I hope many men will see thealternative event as a better opportunity for personal education and growth," remarked Gary Brouhard, an organizer of the alternative event. "While I’m glad I have the choice to march, I also respect how empowering ‘women-only’ space must feel."

This year’s Take Back The Night will bring together people from all of Washtenaw County to protest all sexualized violence in a powerful, unified voice.


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