Sexual assault protested

By Sean Leary

A group of about 200 students gathered in Chick Evans Field House Tuesday night for “Take Back the Night,” a rally protesting sexual assault against women.

The protest began with a presentation of speakers and musical performances and evolved into an hour-long march across campus.

“The primary goal of events like this one is to educate people and raise awareness of the situation,” said Susan Vermeulen, co-founder of the Women’s Alliance, which sponsored the rally.

One of the speakers, Paula Johnson, an NIU School of Law professor, described the violence against women as reaching “epidemic” proportions.

Another speaker, Pam Weisman of Safe Passage, a support group for women, concurred with Johnson. “Every five years more women die from beatings by husbands and boyfriends than the number of soldiers that were killed in Vietnam,” Weisman said.

Most of the women questioned felt the number was even larger.

“I think that a lot of rapes go unreported because women are afraid of public embarrassment and negative reactions they might get from people,” said Lois Self, faculty adviser for the Women’s Alliance.

Both speakers and participants agreed that the problem of violence against women on college campuses is a growing one.

“Students are quite right to be concerned with the growing number of not only rapes, but incidences of indecency on campus,” Self said.

“There seems to be a very large acceptance of rape. This is because of the lack of awareness and the myths about rape,” Self said. “The only way to (dispel) these myths is through education.”

Vermeulen listed several suggestions to help begin to deal with the problem. These included adding a mandatory class to the NIU curriculum dealing with sexual and racial stereotypes and why they are unacceptable.

Vermeulen did say, however, that she felt the NIU administration was doing a “good job” in recognizing and dealing with the problem of sexual assault on campus.