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'Take Back the Night'

Susan A. Vagman (The Daily Free Press via U-WIRE)/BOSTON -- College students rallied Saturday night at Boston Common in the first statewide protest of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and abuse, which is called Massachusetts Colleges Take Back the Night.

Protesters gathered at the Common, telling stories, reading poems and discussing means of finding help while bands from Berklee College of Music entertained the crowd. The night was about survival and feeling whole again, demonstrators said.

"We just bring awareness to college students, the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts," said Lisa Gentes, founder and coordinator of the event. She said the protesters ultimately want to see the violence stop, citing increased education, prevention programs and public awareness as avenues for achieve that goal.

"According to the National Victim Support, one in four college women are sexually assaulted," Gentes said.

"Women know -- we know what it's like. We experience the fear on a daily basis and know that sexual violence is wrong," said Kari Whitney, vice president of Action of Greater Boston National Organization for Women.

Whitney said women and men alike must address the issue for a solution to be feasible.

"This is not a women's issue," Whitney said. "Only men can stop the violent conditioning and women can begin to dismantle the structure by using our voices."

"It is my belief, that generally most men and women are uncomfortable with the status quo," said Zach Folconer, a mentor in the Mentor's Violence Prevention Program, which teaches student athletes and leaders to end male violence against women.

Falconer, who played football for Northeastern University, said he remembers what it was like to be "thrust into a collegiate jock culture."

"I remember feeling like it was expected of me to go out, meet women and take them home," he said.

Whitney and others urged survivors and supporters to come together to stop brutal acts of violence against females.

"The power trip has left too many women killed -- literally and emotionally. It must stop," Whitney said. "Be an active bystander for violent images."

The speakers offered helpful and realistic advice for crime prevention on college campuses.

Kristen Wallace of Stonehill College recommended using the buddy system, locking doors and windows and speaking up about individual concerns. Wallace then led the audience in chants of "Yes means Yes! No means No!"

Sarah Dettinger, a clinical intern in the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, said BARCC offers individual and group counseling and advocacy where women work together.

"We rid women of shame they should never have," Dettinger said. "We help them heal."

Writing senators, making donations, volunteering at shelters and distributing brochures are all effective ways to help prevent assaults, said Nancy Kwant of Peace at Home, adding that people should challenge themselves to lead a life that will make a difference.

While some came to speak about their own experiences with abuse, others came to support friends and loved ones.

"Our daughter is speaking," said Karen and Frank McLoud. "We're very proud of her."

Others came to show support for the cause and to stand up to sexual crimes.

"Women are constantly marginalized. Until we take a stand, women will continue to be so," said Kendra Thomas, 23, of Allston.

(c) 2001 The Daily Free Press via U-WIRE

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