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Speaking out against violence

Take Back the Night is a chance for people of all genders to take a stand against violence

Photo from the 2012 Take Back the Night event

The University of Iowa Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC) will host Iowa City’s annual Take Back The Night (TBTN) event on Tuesday, April 30 in downtown Iowa City.

Now an international event, TBTN began in Philadelphia, Pa. after a stranger stabbed Susan Alexander Speeth, a young microbiologist, to death as she walked alone in October 1975. Citizens rallied together to take a stand against sexual violence and create a safe environment for community members to discuss how sexual violence affects the lives of everyone in the community.

According to Linda Kroon, Director for the University of Iowa’a Women’s Resource and Action Center, WRAC began to host TBTN in Iowa City sometime in the late 1970’s. WRAC is unsure of the exact date of the original event in Iowa City as there was minimal documentation during this time.

The University of Iowa’s approach to the international event has been steadily evolving over the past five years, according to Kroon.

“The breadth of our approach is somewhat unique,” Kroon says. “ We’ve taken a much broader lens on the issue of violence because we understand that sexual and relationship violence happens to all kinds of people.”

Because the majority of reported cases of sexual and dating violence happen to women, they will remain an important focus of the event—but not the only focus.

“We aren’t meaning to minimize [the large number of cases involving women] whatsoever, but we also know that men are victims are this kinds of violence, transgender people are targeted for this kinds of violence, and it can happen in any kind of relationship, so it’s not an exclusively heterosexual phenomenon either,” Kroon says. “We try to really honor that in the presentations that we do.”

TBTN Iowa City will kick off the event by gathering on the Pentacrest at 6:30 p.m. Selected speakers will give talks related to sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and how these issues impact the community. This portion of TBTN acts as a way to honor those who have survived these types of crimes and those who have not.

A peaceful march follows in which participants will carry signs and participate in chants and songs that encourage the community to “take back the night.”

The march ends back at the Pentacrest where participants have the chance to share their own stories related to sexual and gender violence. This is a key activity according to Kroon, who notes that sexual violence is often attached to stigma and shame, making it difficult for survivors to speak up.

“[The open mike is] a space that we have found is really important for those survivors,” Kroon says. “You’re not going to come to TBTN and hear a bunch of angry speeches, a bunch of blaming and shaming kind of speeches. You are going to hear speeches about why it’s important to be a part of a positive difference.”

Kroon is hopeful that TBTN will reduce some of the stigma associated with dating violence by creating a safe and positive atmosphere for victims to share their stories.

“The purpose of the event is a positive one. It’s to express support and a commitment a safer place for all of us,” Kroon says. “I think it’s a chance for anyone, whether you have any previous involvement in the issue or not, to really make a contribution in a very real kind of way to make a better future.”