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Take Back the Night march raises awareness of domestic, sexual violence

DeKALB – Self-professed quiet speaker Holly Benson marched Tuesday holding a poster in honor of friends who have been affected by domestic and sexual violence.

Benson, an Elburn resident, said participating in Safe Passage’s Take Back the Night event was the least she could do to be a good friend.

“I know entirely too many people that this has happened to,” Benson said.

Participants started their march Tuesday evening at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 615 N. First St., DeKalb, and walked along North First Street to downtown DeKalb then back to the church. A DeKalb police car followed the marchers as a few cars honked their horns in support.

Marchers also shouted four different chants during the walk such as, “End it, end it, end the silence; stop it, stop it, stop the violence.”

The event, held during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, also invited victims, or survivors, to speak out about their personal experiences with domestic and sexual violence. T-shirts of local victims and those who know victims hung along the periphery of the church basement as part of the Clothesline Project. Three white shirts marked a death because of domestic or sexual violence.

“This is such a powerful way to demonstrate how sexual assault and violence in general is affecting our community,” said Lisa Jensen, client services director at Safe Passage.

Statistics gathered by Safe Passage show 4 million women are physically abused by their husbands or live-in partners each year. About 95 percent of domestic violence perpetrators are men.

Sycamore resident Bob Self, who calls himself a feminist, was marching along with the rest of the crowd, many of whom were women.

As a retired English professor from Northern Illinois University, Self said every little way of raising people’s consciousness of the issue is important, especially considering DeKalb is a college town where women are seen as sex targets, he said.

“This is a way of expressing a resistance to the attitude in our culture that says women can be attacked at the whim of male desire,” Self said. “We need to stop that attitude.”

Marj Askins, Safe Passage community educator and legal advocate in the sexual assault program, said the march is done in coordination with others across the country to reclaim spaces considered unsafe by women.

Women who walk during the night are considered at risk to be sexually assaulted, Askins said.

“We all deserve to be safe, even at nighttime, even when we’re by ourselves,” she said. “We all deserve to be safe.”

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