A line of women and men stretching eight people wide and nearly a city block in length marched through downtown Provo Thursday night to protest violence against women.
The marchers' mingled voices rose in chants that could be heard blocks away as they tramped at drill pace along Center Street and up University Avenue: "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Rape has got to go." and "Take back, take back. Women take back the night."The Committee to Promote the Status of Women, a Brigham Young University student group referred to as VOICE, sponsored the rally and march.
Besides raising public awareness of the fear women feel in society, particularly in darkness, VOICE wanted to unify women who've been victims of violence. The group also reiterated a need for a Women's Resource Center at BYU to provide support and education for victims of sexual assault.
This is the first "Take Back the Night" demonstration in Provo; similar rallies are held in cities across the United States each spring.
Two hundred people, including about 30 men, attended the rally and march, which began at The Rock Garden, 22 S. Freedom Blvd., at 8 p.m. with a concert featuring several women performers.
BYU student Daniel Heath, 24, came to protest the inequality women experience in society.
"I think there is a big problem in society with women's image," Heath said. "They are not regarded as equal by many people. If you just watch TV for a few minutes you can see that. They (women) are generally overlooked in society but particularly in this community."
Springville residents Nancy and Emily Lower heard about the rally and came to show their support and sympathy for women who've been abused.
Emily Lower, 26, expressed anger at the way women have to modify their behavior because of fears for safety, particularly at night.
"It just makes me angry that this is a situation I have to live with as a woman," she said. "I don't feel like it has to be thisway. Something is definitely wrong."
Her mother, Nancy Lower, is a nurse who's worked with victims of assault.
"Trying to make healthy women out of hurt women is sad, but it also makes you angry," Nancy Lower said.
Several VOICE members got into a brief shouting match outside The Rock Garden with a young man who said he'd been abused by a woman and accused the group of being "only concerned about their own selfish needs."
At 11 p.m. the group assembled outside The Rock Garden, many carrying signs, and began marching toward University Avenue behind a small pickup truck. An unmarked police car trailed the marchers.
Employees working late in the multistoried Nu Skin and Kress buildings gathered at windows overlooking Center Street and peered down as the mass of people passed by.
Scott Christensen, who was driving around Provo on a motorcycle, pulled Over just off Center Street to watch the demonstration.
"You don't see many things like this in Provo," Christensen said. "I personally don't support VOICE, but they are entitled to do what they want."
Provo resident Lisa McDowell saw the demonstration while driving through Provo and pulled over to watched the marchers from the parking lot of Smith's on 200 West.
"It's great," she said. "I think it's important. More people need to realize it (abuse) could happen to anyone, even in Provo. We need to be more educated."
During the "Take Back the Night" rally, VOICE members issued a list of 10 ways to help create a better society:
- Abolish the myth that women and children "ask for it"; stop blaming and start believing survivors of sexual assault.
- Begin anti-rape culture education at all levels of the Utah Valley school system.
- Establish a legal system that is more responsive to rape survivors, and provide advocates who can guide survivors through the legal process. Make the assailant prove consent, not the victim prove lack of consent.
- End the feminization of poverty by ending economic discrimination, providing safe and affordable housing and adequate health and child care.
- Stop viewing women as objects, end the sexualization of children and legitimation of violence through advertising and pornography.
- The media must be responsible in portrayal of rape survivors and all women, and it should act as a force for change and a resource for survivors by publicizing available options and resources.
- Assailants, not children, should be removed from violent homes.
- The silence that protects abusers, rapists and batterers must end.
- BYU must stop pretending that women students are not victims of rape, incest or battery and establish a Women's Resource Center to provide advocacy, support and education for victims of abuse.
- Safety must exist for all women - anywhere, anytime.