UMKC Takes Back the Night

Last night the UMKC Women’s Center hosted the march and rally, Take Back the Night. It all began in the UMKC quad with everyone gathering to make posters for the march and enjoy some free pizza and snag a free t-shirt courtesy of the APC. The posters included sayings to help promote awareness about sexual violence as well as to speak out against it. Some of the posters included sayings like “I’m here to help stop rape”, “Use your voice”, “Be bold! Be Strong! Take Action!”, “Men can stop Rape”, and “Make a Difference”. The posters that everyone made during our pre-rally event were carried as we marched from the quad to the JC Nichols Fountain across from the Plaza.

The pre-march event took place from 6:30pm to 7:15pm and not only was there free food and goodies, there was also a modern dance performance put on by the group “Mixed Blood.” The performance was designed to illustrate the stigma attached with being a survivor of sexual violence. The woman who choreographed the piece spoke for a few moments after the performance about how unfair and intolerable it is that survivors of sexual violence can be made to feel like they are dirty and shunned because of what happened to them. In addition to the performance there were also some speeches made before the march began. One of the speakers was Virginia Phillips from Planned Parenthood talking about the services that they offer, followed by community leader Jean Peters-Baker who addressed statistica related to sexual violence, and Jessica Farmer from Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, who talked about sexual violence in the LGBT community and some of the unique problems that LGBT victims face.

At about 7:15pm roughly 75 people started marching to the Plaza. Armed with the posters they had made and chants like “2, 4, 6, 8, no more date rape” and “Survivors unite take back the night”, the march continued through campus toward the JC Nichols Fountain. During the march, both men and women, of all ages and races, shouted, held up their posters, and tried to get everyone we passed to honk their horn in support. Luckily we had a police escort, which definitely made crossing the larger streets like Volker and Main safe for our group, and also drew attention to our cause.

Once we arrived at the rally point, all the marchers were handed bags that had water, a glow stick, and tons of information about MOCSA, KCAVP, Planned Parenthood, as well as our resources here at the Women’s Center, like our Violence Prevention and Response Project.  After some more rallying on the sidewalk at the intersection of Broadway and Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd, which was accompanied by Women of the Drum, everyone gathered around the makeshift stage to listen to a survivor tell their story.

The survivor, Diana Meyer, was introduced by Lisa Martin of MOCSA. Diana bravely told her story about being raped by her best friend’s husband after he drugged her beer. After she was raped she went to the hospital and was administrated a rape kit, which then took 2 years to process. After it was processed and the results came back proving the man guilty, it then took another six months for the D.A.’s office to tell her that they weren’t going to prosecute her case.  When she asked for the reason why, they told her it was because there was alcohol involved and there was no evidence she said “NO.”  Finally after much persistence from Diana, the DA agreed to prosecute the case.  The man was found guilty and convicted of rape. He only had to serve a total of 30 days in jail. After his release he was registered as a sex offender. Diana said that shortly after his stay in jail he moved to Texas where he was again arrested and convicted of soliciting sex from a minor online. He got 10 years community service and probation. He didn’t have to serve any more jail time. Diana said that she made the choice not to let him have any more control over her life. She called for other survivors to break the silence and to not let their rapists have any more control over their lives as well. Her story, while sad and distressing, was also one of triumph over violence and regaining control by breaking the silence. After she was finished, Lisa Martin came back up to talk a little bit about what MOCSA does, like offering support service to victims such as counseling, and she also pointed out that the bags lined up in front of the microphone were made by clients at MOCSA who were survivors. There were 17 bags. Martin told us to take the number and multiply it by 45, which is 765, and that is the number of people MOCSA helped last year alone.

The night ended with a moment of silence for survivors of sexual violence.

Take Back the Night is an event that is used to unify people and to promote awareness about sexual violence, but it is also a venue for people to break the silence and speak out. Whether or not you attended, we can all raise awareness and speak out in our own lives and communities, so that maybe one day we truly can say that the night has been taken back.

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