Thursday, May 3, 2012

PLU takes on the rain, takes back the night

Rain or shine, the Women’s Center is determined to help women feel safe walking at night.

By Amelia Heath, News Editor

Thirty-seven Pacific Lutheran students and Parkland community members, including seven male students, gathered under hoods and umbrellas in Red Square Thursday to take part in the university’s third annual Take Back the Night, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.

Volunteers from the Women’s Center led participants on a one-mile walk through upper and lower campus, leading cheers and chants protesting violence against women.

The first documented Take Back the Night event took place in Philadelphia, Penn., in 1975. Since then, cities across the globe have organized their own events. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes began in 2001 in California and has subsequently become a worldwide movement.

Men who participated in the event at PLU wore women’s high-heeled shoes for the mile-long walk to attempt to understand the anxiety women may experience walking alone night.

Senior Murphy Eakes, an intern for Voices Against Violence, helped plan the event. He said the events, particularly Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, are important because they dissolve the idea sexual violence is solely a women’s problem.

“They’re gender issues since, predominately, the perpetrators of these crimes are men,” Eakes said. “But most men aren’t perpetrators.”

After the walk, participants met in the CAVE to discuss how sexual violence has affected their lives, whether through personal experiences or experiences of friends and relatives.

Senior Amy Campbell has participated in PLU’s Take Back the Night the last three years.

“It was shocking to me how many people had been sexually assaulted at PLU,” Campbell said. “As a freshman student you come in and you think that PLU is the best place in the world, and that really shocked my perspective on things.”

Alumna Jennifer Ladzinski graduated in December, but said she came back to campus as a sexual assault advocate for the event because “they get everybody involved and make people able to talk about sexual assault in a way that’s a little more fun, to walk around campus and cheer for something that’s normally a very serious topic and not easy to talk about.”

The Women’s Center also took donations on behalf of the YWCA children’s program. Women’s Center advocate Jennifer Warwick estimated $150-200 had been raised, but could not give a specific number because the center was still combining cash and online donations at  time of press.

“I guess I keep doing it  [Take Back the Night and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes] because it [sexual assault] hasn’t ended,” Campbell said. “It’s something that we hope one day will end.”