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.”


Abortion:Past and Present

Filed under: IC Stories: Vrba, Women's Issues, Iowa City Stories — TK @ 9:37 pm


The word alone calls forth strong emotions in most people, fueling political intense political debate and religious vindications. It has been in increasing debate, especially after 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, which made abortions legal in the United States.

The Debate

Many women’s rights organizations consider it a right to have a choice, including the Feminist Majoridy Leadership Alliance, and the Emma Goldman Clinic. The alliance is a University of Iowa student organizations which promotes women’s rights. The Emma Goldman Clinic is a women’s health care clinic in Iowa City.

The debate invokes the question, is the abortion argument an argument of morality or rights?

“I think it’s neither,” Said 20-year old University of Iowa Junior Katie Nicklaus. “It’s a medical procedure. It should be treated like a medical procedure.”

The Emma Goldman Clinic is one of the places in Iowa City where a person can go to get this procedure. The non-profit clinic was founded in 1973

The Emma Goldman Clinic didn’t respond to request for an interview. A letter from a supporter of the clinic and who witnessed its founding depicts her experiences on the website. “The idea of an “abortion clinic” in our community was not the way we [many of my friends and I] saw the EGC,” she said. “It was a women’s health clinic that would offer abortions as one of many services.”

The other side of the argument involves those who are against abortion.

20-year old Elizabeth Adolphi considers herself pro-life.  “The argument on abortion is about both moral rights and women’s rights, but i think its mostly about moral rights,” she said.  “Abortion is the act of a mother who doesn’t want her child and, to me, that’s selfish.”

Adolphi points out that a women can give the child up for adoption if she doesn’t want her child.  “There are so many people out there who cant have children that desperately want one,” she said.   “So, if you ever conceive through rape, incest, or sheer mistake think about your options and lean on the people who love you; they’ll help you get through it.”

There are also health risks to abortion.  Adolphi says that abortion does not just hurt the baby, but it can hurt the mother physically and sycologically.

The Emma Goldman clinic lists emotional changes and silightly elivated fever under normal side effects of getting an abortion.

The History

The United States Supreme Court made their Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Yet, abortion is not a recent phenomenon that has risen out of technological and medical advances.

Raymond A. Mentzer, who researches European religious history and is the current chair of the religious studies program at the University of Iowa, talked about pregnancy and abortion in terms of through early European history. “Women didn’t really consider themselves pregnant until it moved.” He said. This is because many women were malnourished and would often miscarry. They didn’t consider themselves pregnant unless there was some sign that the conception would result in a birth.

“[abortion] really wasn’t approved of, but it happened.” said Mentzer. “It was easy to find a dead baby,” Home remedies for terminating a pregnancy were common enough that they had their own euphemism. Preperations to terminate a pregnancy were sometimes referred to as “taking the trade.”

According Mentzer, the Christian argument against abortion is founded in the idea of ensoulment. “There’s this argument made that life begins at conception,” he said.
The issue he finds in that argument is in the case of identical twins. He said, “Only after conception does it [the fertilized egg] split.”

This splitting of the fertilized egg usually occurs within a week or so of fertilization.


Abortion has received recent attention due to its involvement in the health care legislation.  A summary of the bill on the CBS News website states that no state funds will be used to fund abortions.  Rape, incest, and health of the mother are exceptions to this.

April 1, 2010

Women’s Rights in Iowa City

Women are still fighting for their rights even now, in the 21st century. In Iowa City, the biggest issue is sexual violence. Another big issue in women’s rights is abortion.

“I think a lot of people would say, ‘I have everything I need. I have all my rights. I’m not discriminated against,’” said 21 year-old Jill Kacere. Kacere has been involved with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a University of Iowa women’s rights group, since she was a freshman.

“We [women] have most of the rights that we need,” said Kacere, “but that doesn’t mean that we’re living in a society that is completely fair.”

The United States is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. This United Nations convention is meant to protect women’s rights. Having women’s rights as an idea in our culture is important, said Kacere. The United States is an example to the rest of the world.

There are only eight countries in the world that have not signed the convention. These countries include Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.

Sexual Violence in Iowa City

Karen Siler, 43, is the Johnson County Services Coordinator at the Rape Victim Advocacy Program. She says rape is effected by how a society views gender rights. Society still thinks it is the fault of the victim when an act of sexual violence is committed against them, she said despairingly.

“Maybe they were taking a risk,” said Siler, “but they have a right to drink and a right to dress like they want.”

Kacere agreed that women should not be blamed for the acts committed against them just because they happen to dress a certain way.

“I hate that,” Kacere said, “Because it’s like, if you got raped, then obviously you didn’t follow these rules and therefore it’s your fault.” She disagrees with education that targets what a woman’s actions as being wrong. It’s not about the risky behavior, because that doesn’t address the root of the problem.

According to Siler, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program focuses on teaching people how to notice others and how to respond. For example, if someone is putting someone who is drunk and passes out into a car, check to see if it is someone they know. Find their friends.

Groups are another big way in which people can protect themselves and others. “It’s just common sense,” said 20 year-old Katie Nicklaus.

Nicklaus recalled her days in Girl Scout camp. Even councilors weren’t supposed to walk alone, she said. “If you would fall and twist your ankle, you need someone to limp you home,” she said.

Sexual violence is a huge concern for women, especially in Iowa City. “I do think that sexual violence is ridiculously out of control,” said Kacere, “especially in this community.”

Citizens are not alone on the streets at night. When you walk around the college bar scene, there is usually law enforcement present. Siler noted that police and hospitals are doing all of the right things, but “things can always be better.”

The only way to stop violence, including sexual violence, is for people to make the choice to not be violent. “All violence is a choice,” said Siler, “Even if its self-defense, it’s a choice. You have options.”

A policy that is attempting to make things better is the 21-ordinance. Siler personally supports the ordinance in hopes that it will lessen the atmosphere of violence.

Siler declined to take a stance on whether or not the 21-ordinance would have any effect on sexual assaults in Iowa City. What she is hoping it will do is create less violence.

“If it lessens the amount of people all in one place stirring things up, I’m all for it,” she said.


Abortion in regards to the health care bill was a topic of discussion last Monday at the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance meeting. The group talked about abortion as a right not yet realized.

“I think women’s rights typically mean women’s choice,” Said Kacere.

The group hoped for abortion to be destigmatized. One group member compared it to how many religions are treating premarital sex. Religion still believes it’s wrong, but people don’t stigmatize it anymore.

“If you are really religious, that’s wonderful, live your life by that,” said Kacere. But, religion should not be brought into the argument about abortion because of the separation of church and state.

Many people still decline to make a big statement about the health care bill passed last week because they are unsure of what it entails. One thing that Kacere and the Alliance know is abortion rights were taken out. has a summary for the bill on their site. It points out that no federal funds will be used to fund abortions.

Kacere disagrees, saying that the choice of abortion should be available for everyone. “You can think that abortion is cruel and wrong,” she said, “but when it comes to you, then don’t do it.”

The CBS summary of the bill makes exceptions for “rape, incest, or the health of the mother,” but Kacere doesn’t think a women’s reasoning should be a consideration. It’s all a matter of choice.

“You can do what you want because it’s your body,” said Kacere, “and whether I agree with your reasoning or not, is irrelevant.”

The abortion argument tends to be about a belief or a right. “I think it’s neither,” said Nicklaus. “It is a medical procedure” Abortion should be treated like any other medical procedure.
The health care debate has not disappeared with the passing of the health care bill, and the debate will surely rage on.


One basic right that has still to be realized is equal pay. According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations site, women made 77 cents for every dollar a man made in 2007. Women who are in a minority group, tend to make less.

“I don’t think the fight for women’s rights will ever be over,” said Kacere.

Kacere urges women to educate themselves and get involved.

“Things might be a problem,” she said, “but you have to look at where it starts.” Don’t just tell women not to do something, ask why it is happening.

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