Iowa City Stories

May 11, 2010

Progress Against Sexual Violence in Iowa City

T-shirts decorate the Pentacrest for Sexual Violence Awareness Month

April was Sexual Violence Awareness month. On April 27th, the southeastern side of the University of Iowa penacrest was decorated with a plethora of colorful t-shirts. These many t-shirts gave voice to the victims of sexual violence and abuse.

“All sexual abuse is about power and control,” Said Karen Siler, the Johnson County Services Coordinator at the Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

The shirts on the Pentecrest gave some of that power back to the victims. One shirt read “men who beat women are chicken.” Many of the shirts expressed overcoming the memories that haunt them.

“Our voices will be heard,” read another shirt.

Stastistics from the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network state that one in six women and one in 33 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. In the United States today, there are 17.7 million women who have been a victim of rape or attempted rape.

Dispite the high number of women effected by sexual violence, more than half of assaults never get reported.

In Iowa City

Officer Allison is a key actor in the Night Ride program at the University of Iowa. The program started in September of 2007 and was created to address the amount of sexual violence in Iowa City. At the time, there were over 30 or so assaults in the Iowa City area per year. Officer Allison was quick to point out that the real number can never actually be known because of the amount of cases that go unreported.

“The program was developed to protect the people that needed to be protected,” he said, “Something they could do for free, no questions asked.”

Around 200 people use the Night Ride service per weekend. The service runs until three in the morning seven days a week. During finals week at the University, the service runs until five in the morning, to better accomadate students who are studying late. It also picks up staff and will transport them to their cars.

Siler hopes that the recently passed 21-Ordinance will help lessen the amount of sexual assaults in Iowa City as well. “The atmosphere promots a lot of violence,” she said, speaking of the bar scene. “Some of the predatory access I hope will lessen.”

In a world where women have had to fight for their rights, societies view on women has an effect on the violence and rape against them. According to Siler, the victim is often blamed for the acts commited against her, whether it be for the way she acted or the way she dressed.

“Which is terrible, saying well you brought it upon yourself,” Said Jill Kacere, President of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at the University of Iowa.

Wearing shorter skirts may be “risky behavior,” but that is not the point, according to Kacere.

The Rape Victim Advocacy Program focuses more “on the people around and how they can respond,” said Siler.

As an example, Siler gave a situation. You see someone helping an intoxicated person into a car. Check and see if the person is all right; ask if they know each other.

University of Iowa Junior, Katie Nicklaus recalls a time where she stumbled upon a girl walking alone one night. When asked why she decided to approach the girl, she Nicklaus said, “She was obviously drunk and a chick and alone.” It’s about looking out for one another.

An inspiring sheet decorated to promote power to the victims of sexual violence.

“At least just educate yourself and get somewhat involved,” said Kacere.

According to Siler, the police and medical personnel are doing all of the right things to protect people in the community. “I think there are some good policies,” she said, “[but] the only things that will stop violence is by people making the decision not to be violent.”


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