Monday, April 19, 2004

Marchers complain of heckling

Petition asks Miami U. officials to acknowledge it

By Lindsay Whitehurst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD - Every year at Miami University, about 50 women, carrying candles and chanting loudly, march through campus to memorialize victims of sexual assault.

And every year, some Miami students yell back. Police confirm that from dorm windows and house porches, students have shouted "Go home!" or have made lewd gestures at the marchers or have played Nirvana's "Rape Me."

More than 50 people, half of them men, participated in a rally last week aimed at attitudes they say trivialize sexual assault.

Miami students have reported fourteen sexual assaults to the Oxford Police Department this school year and at least three more assaults have been reported to the Miami University Police.

"These attitudes are the cause of the statistics we hear," said 21-year-old student Terri Donofrio. She went on the annual "Take Back the Night" march for the first time last November. Before the march, she said other participants warned her that the event is "not well received on this campus."

"I was never more embarrassed to be part of a university where this was going on," she said. "Why has nothing ever been said? How come none of us knew about this?"

Convinced that silence was part of the problem, the speech communications major began a campaign to raise awareness by circulating a petition asking Miami officials to acknowledge the heckling. So far, the petition has more than 600 signatures.

"There's no question that this behavior does happen," said Miami University spokeswoman Holly Wissing. "I applaud their efforts to bring this to students' attention."

Some years, the Oxford Police Department sends an officer with the procession to show support and to help with street crossings.

"I think a lot of it happens out of ignorance. Anyone who's ever seen the devastation assault can cause would never do that," said Oxford police Detective John Buchholz.

The Miami University Police also sends a bicycle escort with the marchers ever year."

Association for Women Students President Bethany Weber said the march "is a place for women to voice their anger and outrage. It's an empowering event. We're trying to reclaim the campus."

Much of the heckling was concentrated on the university's north quad, near Miami's line of fraternity houses. Since Donofrio began her awareness campaign, the Miami Inter-fraternity Council has issued a formal apology and several council members attended the rally.


In Newport, a Take Back the Night march will be April 29. For more information, call Jodi Langenkamp at the Rape Crisis and Abuse center (513) 977-5546 or Jodi Glass at the Center for Living Options (859) 341-4346.

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