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Students march to raise sexual assault awareness

By Audrey DeAnda
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 10, 1999
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Eric M. Jukelevics
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Freshman psychology major Teresa Blevins (left) holds a sign during the second annual "Take Back the Night" march along First Street last night. "Take Back the Night" was a program set up by German Studies senior Whitney Grese along with the Campus Acquaintance Rape Educators which protest rape and violence against women and children.

UA sophomore Lily DeSantiago last night shared the pain of her sister's rape and the possibility for healing.

"When I was 9-years-old, my older sister was raped," DeSantiago said. "I was one of the only people she told and I had to carry that burden that a person I love was hurt in a terrible way."

DeSantiago, a community health education and family studies major, relived the moment when her sister confided in her 10 years ago.

Her story was one of many shared last night on the UA Mall with about 50 people during the second annual "Take Back the Night" program, sponsored by Campus Acquaintance Rape Educators and the Women's Resource Center.

When DeSantiago came to the UA last year, she attended the first "Take Back the Night," an educational forum designed to promote awareness about violence against women and children.

"I thought this was the greatest thing in the world," she said. "I wish something like this was around when this happened to my sister."

Supporters held signs against violence during a candlelight vigil and chanted "Stop the abuse now" as they marched down East First Street and circled back to the Mall. Some picket signs stated: "Real men are not intimidated by strong women" and "It's never OK to hit someone you love."

"We hope to start a tradition here," said Sarah Ballard, a psychology senior who serves as director of the Women's Resource Center. "I got involved in 'Take Back the Night' because of some of the issues I was concerned with."

DeSantiago got involved with ASUA's CARE center as a way to make up for not being able to help her sister when she was younger.

Whitney Grese, CARE's director, has been involved in the organization for two and a half years. She helped organize 'Take Back the Night' last year and decided to represent CARE as the director this year.

"We learn ways to educate people about date rape in a way that won't make them feel uneasy," said Grese, a German studies senior.

Associated Students Escort Services, Tucson's Rape and Crisis Center and the Brewster Center for Women and Children were among the organizations on the Mall last night working toward stopping violence against women.

Arne Ekstrom, Students Against Sweatshops president, attended the march to show his support for women's rights.

"I strongly support (the event) to improve conditions in society for women," Ekstrom said. "It's still not safe for women to be out alone at night."

Teresa Blevins, a psychology freshman, heard about the march through Beyond Tolerance, a campus organization that promotes diversity. Beyond Tolerance members attend functions to become more aware of different issues, she said.

Blevins said she is a strong supporter of "Take Back the Night."

"I think it's a good thing because when a person is raped, everyone cares for about 10 minutes, but then it goes to the back burner so to speak," she said.