Author’s note: The video has been fixed and updated.
On Thursday, April 12, 2012, I attended the “Take Back the Night” event in Galena. It was a small event of only about a dozen or so passionate attendees, and hosted by Assistant State’s Attorney Betty Jane Roliardi in conjunction with the Riverview Center (http://www.riverviewcenter.org/).
The event was already underway by the time I found it (making my love/loathe relationship with MapQuest lean more toward loathe), and a couple of people were already in the middle of sharing their own personal experiences. I decided the best thing I could do was just listen.
While I can’t escape the feeling that there’s something inherently exploitive about relating everyone’s stories, especially since I didn’t get to inform everyone there that I planned on blogging about the event, there did seem to be a couple of recurring themes regarding the nature of sexual violence and its impact.
The first consistent topic of discussion was safety, particularly for victims of domestic violence. According to Ms. Roliardi, one of the major problems is that a woman will file charges, and then drop them due to pressure and manipulation from the boyfriend/husband, as well as his friends and family.
The other big topic was trauma, and the fact that there is little appreciation for its potentially lifelong impact. One woman pointed out that while there is enormous compassion for our troops suffering from PTSD (as well there should be); but for victims of sexual violence, with a fairly short time frame, they’re constantly receiving messages of, “What do you mean you’re not over it yet?” In this instance, there was agreement that the lifelong impact of trauma yields little understanding, especially in regard to how even the most miniscule events can trigger and episode of anxiety of a bout of depression. Even decades later. “What do you mean you’re still not over it?”
After the event, I had a chance to speak one-on-one with Ms. Roliardi, and a couple of the workers from the Riverview Center. In my chat with Ms. Roliardi, we touched on some of the earlier topics, and some more specific items, especially in regard to some of the legal wrangling involved. She said that in her experience judges are one of the overlooked obstacles, and they’re too quick to dismiss charges. Another problem is the issue of consent—that prosecutors are in the unenviable position of having to prove a negative: that consent did not happen. And then the inevitable debate of what constitutes consent. Also, any case involving children as victims or witnesses are, by nature, difficult to pursue.
At the end of our discussion, she left me with this question, “What’s changed? We tell our girls not to go out at night, but are we telling our boys not to rape?”
I spoke with a couple of ladies from the Riverview Center, and unfortunately I ended up giving them info on a blog that no longer works. So, I hope I can make it up to them by sharing the awesome work that they do, if I have in fact managed to embed the video properly.