Saturday, October 7, 2006

Take Back the Night, 2006

I attended the Take Back the Night march and rally last night. I've attended the event, which aims to raise awareness of rape and domestic violence, four of the past five years. The last three years, TBTN organizers have separated men from women with the goal of making this night a night where women assert their power over domestic violence. This time, the men and women took completely separate routes for the first part of the march, and when they joined up the men walked behind the women rather than with them. There were then sex-segregated "speak out" events at the county courthouse.

I did not participate in the march, waiting on Kirkwood for the activists to arrive at the sample gates, and I also did not attend the men's speak out session. I declined to participate after listening to the initial speakers in Dunn Meadow because I disagree with segregating the event by sex. Rape is not just a women's issue; men have daughters, nieces, wives, girlfriends, mothers, aunts and cousins. Men can be raped too, and that happens far too often in our prison system.

Very few men attended the TBTN event this year compared to the female turnout, which I found very sad. I am sure that part of the reason for the low number of men was the sex segregation. This should not be a time for women to proclaim their power, it should be a time for men and women to stand together against sexual predators and let it be known that this will not be tolerated.

One of the chants last night was "However we dress, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no." As a moral statement, this is certainly true. No woman ever "asks" to be raped, and the sole moral responsibility for rape is with the rapist. However, there is and always will be evil in the world. I do not think it is wise or prudent to proclaim a woman's right to put herself in a potentially dangerous situation. Instead, women should be encouraged to take steps to ensure their safety.

What about education programs for men, as have been suggested in years past? Men do not need to be educated to understand that rape is evil. Men need to have a strong set of moral values and to understand that physically forcing someone to do anything is morally wrong. That same set of moral values also makes men realize that they cannot allow a "friend" to abuse women. Everyone can understand moral standards.

Violence against women is a terrible evil, perpetrated by the lowest form of coward. While I disagree with some of the methods used by TBTN organizers, it is a worthy and important cause. Take Back the Night must not be something done one night a year in September or October, it should be at the front of everyone's mind all year long.