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Take Back The Night And Every Day

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The eighth annual Aim Albor Take Back the Night March and Rally to protest violence against women and children was the culmination of many women's continuous efforts to end violence. This year's march and rally was a huge success. It generaled awareness about sexual assault and other forms of violence such as racism and the economie inequalities which pervade the lives of women and children. For one night each year in Ann Arbor, women unite to celébrate both diversity and similarity, to raise consciousness and power, to express the fury which the threat of rape iastills in us, and to turn anger into empowerment. Anger, strength, and hope are some of the feelings which sustain the women in the Ann Arbor Coalition Against Rape, a growing feminist group which has been organizing the yearly Take Back the Nights since 1981. Members of the collective work in many ways to end violence against women and children. Barb Bureau, a special education teaching consultant and Coalition member, joined the group largely because she feit that the demands provided her with a concrete objective to work toward. "I feel very strongly about the tender years law which allows children under five years old who have been abused to be videotapcd instead of being examined by an insensitive lawyer in court." says Bureau. The demands, which try to be representative of all women's needs, vary with the interests and diversity of the Coalition. "Our main focus this whole year has been outreach." says Bureau. "We want the Coaliüon to be bigger and stronger." Take Back the Night draws attention to many problems, and women bring their own perspectives and issues to the meaning of this night. This year, the coalition demonstrated its strong commitment to women of color. This was reflected in a number of demands such as: crisis intervención center outreach to women of color, the end of forced sterilization; and the divestiture of city and University funds in South África and the end of supon for multi-national corporations and oppressive regimes in other countries. The Coalition also asked only women of color to speak and perform at the rally before the march. For this reason, the Washington Sisters, a dynamic women's music pair from Columbus, Ohio, became interested in performing at Take Back the Night. Their politically conscious music and entertainment added to the spirited tone of the Rally. Other women who contributed to the Rally included: locally based Pamela Brown-Peterside, a T.A. in Women's Studies at UM; Michelle Bradford's martial arts defense club from Detroit; Chanta Ford, an English PhD candidate at UM; D. Gosh, a long time feminist activist; Heong Dug Tark, a Women's Studies student at U-M; and Jamina Vasconcellos on the drums. "One of the purposes of the March and Rally," explains Cathy Cohén, a U-M doc-toral student in political sciehce and Coali-tion member, "is to let women know that there are women out there who will support them." The Coalition hopes that more wo-men of color will particípate in the organi-zational process in the future. As Kata Issari, a staffperson at the Assault Crisis Center (ACC) and Coalition member points out, the patriarchal structure of society is a divisive one which weakens the potential of collective strength. Such división, says Issari, "... is a shame and contrary to our purpose. I see real hope in working together. There is a place for each of us." Some of the tangible objectives of the Coalition which have been met recently include: improved lighting; the removal of the Black Velvet Billboard from North Main (seeNIGHT, page 17) NIGHT (from page 4) St.; and the domestic violence ordinance which mandates the arrest of batterers and provides the survivor with support. Work continúes on changing the marital rape law to make marital rape a crime in Michigan. As one of its projects this summer, the Coalition plans to help the Assault Crisis Center with fundraising. In the political context of a rape culture which dehumanizes women and glorifïes violence, it is especially important that the community recognize the serious financial problem that ACC faces this year. The diminishing amount of money for victims of crime, combined with lack of public commitment to sexual assault survivors has caused real problems for the agency, which serves all of Washtenaw county. AACAR's demand for increased mandatory funding of womcn's services in Washtenaw county, shows how the Coalition supports agencies such as ACC. Though the work that each group does differs, it is actually Inter-connected. As Andrea Reubin, an ACC staffperson and Coalition member explains, "Rape is a political issue. The politics of rape are at the core of tion. Working with individuals ihrough counseling to regain their rights and status in the world is part of the recovery fïom rape." Issari points out that, "There is a need for services like ACC as well as activist and political change work. Take Back the Night is one way for women to work together on these issues. Groups can work together, not duplicating each other's work, but collaborating and harmonizing." One of the reasons working with the Coalition is such a positive experience, says Cohen, "... is because people are open and receptive to new ideas and grounds and trying to leam. Everybody brings something unique to the Coalition." She adds, "When I read the statement of purpose (at the Rally) I feit proud to bc a membet of the Coalition. But all 2000 women who jnarched are Coalition members. Different women have different ties. Even if I don't help organize the March and Rally one year I will come to march and again I will feel like a mcmber." The Take Back the NIght March endcd with the spectacular energy of drumbeat and dancing. Says Rcubin, 'The drum beat was like a cali to come again and gathcr."


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