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Our view: Take back the night, march for safety

The march that draws attention to violence against women has been around seemingly forever, for more than four full decades now. It happens every year. So we grow numb to it. We tune it out. We don’t participate.

But what we’re ignoring is the gut-wrenching reality that in the U.S. someone is attacked and hurt every two minutes, according to the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, or PAVSA, a Duluth nonprofit. What we’re not paying attention to is that the average age of a rape victim is 15, that one in seven women in St. Louis County is a sexual-assault victim, and that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before reaching age 18.

Are we shocked? We should be.

The numbers are as somber as Take Back the Night, the event that, sadly, is able to be held every year, including this year. It’s this afternoon and evening, with pre-march activities — including a rally, sign-waving, information tables, music, and coffee and cookies — scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Minnesota Power Plaza at Lake Avenue and West Superior Street. The march is to begin at 7 p.m., moving east through downtown, then up the hill at Second Avenue East to First Street, then west to Second Avenue West, and, finally, back down to Superior Street and the plaza where the event is to give way to inspirational speakers.

“It’s a huge problem that’s sort of under the surface; it’s not talked about by everyone, so it’s important to spread awareness and give victims and survivors the chance to have their voices heard,” PAVSA’s Meghan Gantz said in an interview this week with the News Tribune Opinion page. “It’s our right to walk safely at night. It’s our right to take our streets back.”

An estimated 300 participants were at last year’s Take Back the Night in Duluth. More are hoped to be in attendance this year, though forecasted sleet and rain could keep some away. The first Take Back the Night was held in Germany in 1973 in response to a series of sexual assaults, rapes and murders. The event is “a call to empower survivors of violence, strengthen our communities and increase awareness. We gather in support of ending sexual and domestic violence,” PAVSA said in announcing this year’s event.

A communitywide problem like violence — especially violence against women and children — demands communitywide action. That can start with today’s activities and with as many in attendance as possible, no matter what the weather does.

“(Let’s show) we’re not going to ignore this issue. We’re going to keep standing up for our rights,” Gantz said. “There are too many people who don’t see (the violence). ‘Oh, that’s the norm.’ But it isn’t. It’s a crime. I think a lot of people don’t want to talk about it and don’t want to address it, but it’s important that we do, even if it’s a hard subject.”

In the time it took to read this editorial, another person, tragically, was attacked and hurt in the U.S. How can we tune out the gut-wrenching reality?

To learn more For more information about Take Back the Night in Duluth or about the problem of violence, especially against women and children, contact the Duluth nonprofit PAVSA, or Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault:

* Phone: 726-1442 (its 24-hour crisis line is 726-1931)

* Address: 32 E. First St., Duluth

* Web: