By DANIELLE SUGAI, Staff Reporter
On the evening of Oct. 15, the annual Take Back The Night rally and march took place at University of Michigan-Dearborn. The goal was to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault and the need to eradicate them from society.
“We come together to raise our voices, march our bodies and share our stories to raise awareness on our campus and in our community about the need to eradicate sexual assault and intimate partner violence,” said Dr. Lisa Martin, professor at UM-Dearborn and Director of Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL).
The rally was held in the University Center in both Kochoff halls to accommodate the large crowd. Attendees included current and former UM-Dearborn students and community activists from across metro Detroit.
WILL, the Women’s Resource Center, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inkster Alumnae Chapter and Student Organization Advisory Council (SOAC) sponsored the event. Leaders from various support groups and advocacy campaigns in the greater Detroit area spoke about the affects of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“We’re here tonight to assert the rights that all human beings have the right to live lives that are free from violence, have the right to be heard on these issues and have the right to reclaim these rights if they are violated,” said Dr. Martin.
The impact of domestic abuse on victims is often more than physical or mental abuse, and Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment (SAFE) strives to aid victims who are suffering in an economically abusive relationship by providing resources to become financially independent.
Founder and Director of SAFE, Kalyn Risker, spoke about the difficulty of discussing domestic violence with college students as most view it as a problem for older women. But, she said, it has become an increasing issue on college campuses across the country.
“The conversation is not happening, but the problem is happening. One in five college students are being affected by domestic violence,” Risker said.
“Technology has changed what domestic violence may look like – through text messages or Snapchat, your friends and loved ones don’t know that this is going on because they aren’t hearing it,” Risker said. “They don’t know that you need help until it escalates to when you are screaming for help. We want to help you before it gets that bad.”
Kim Trent, an organizer with Enough Sexual Assault in Detroit (Enough SAID), was on hand to discuss the 11,341 rape kits that went unprocessed for 35 years in Detroit.
Enough SAID is collaborating with the Michigan Women’s Foundation, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Detroit Crime Commission in a collective effort to test the kits and bring justice to the victims. The groups have been able to process 10,000 kits in the six years since they were discovered, but need private financial resources to process the remaining 1,341.
“Every one of those kits represents a victim — a grown woman, man or child — who did not get justice,” Trent said. “80 percent of women who are victims of sexual assault do not report it, so that brave 20 percent who do come forward and then find that their case sat on a shelf for more than three decades is completely unacceptable.”
“Don’t think that if you don’t live in Detroit this is not your problem — this is a problem for the entire nation,” Trent said.
DNA rape kits are the best way to identify rapists, and from the rape kits processed in Detroit, perpetrators have been identified in 39 states.
Some students were in attendance for class assignments, but communications senior Aubrey Huff said, “This is something I’ve attended before, and I would be here anyway because it’s important.”
The event ended with attendees sharing their own stories of abuse and assault.