Naperville rally shines light on domestic violence, sexual abuse
By David Sharos For The Sun September 15, 2012 8:14PM
Mike Driggers and Brittany Bossarte, both of Hanover Park, look at figures from the Silent Witness Project — which represent men, women and children killed by domestic violence in DuPage County — during the annual Take Back the Night rally in downtown Naperville on Saturday, September 15, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Every nine seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
Nearly one in five teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
On average, every day in the U.S., three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:29AM
The pain was evident. The need for action was even more clear.
On Saturday, hundreds came to Naperville for the 20th annual Take Back the Night rally, which focused on raising awareness of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault.
Angela Burdick of Franklin Park, who drove out to Naperville for the event, said the rally is a way to give people strength to fight abuse.
“There are many chapters of ‘Take Back the Night,’ but here in DuPage County as well as Naperville, we need to raise awareness as this area has a higher rate of these incidents than some others and people are afraid to speak out because of where they live,” Burdick said.
“A lot of girls here are afraid to speak out because they’ll be embarrassed.”
Among other things, Saturday’s event at Naperville’s Central Park downtown featured women telling their stories of abuse.
In 1996, 17-year-old Angela Rose was abducted at knifepoint as she left her job at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. She was forced into a car, then bound and blindfolded. Her attacker was a repeat sex offender out on parole from a murder charge.
He took her to some woods nearby and raped her, and then left her back at the mall when he was finished.
Rose fortunately survived the attack. Now 33, she speaks out whenever she can about violent abuse. She said speaking out is important, given the sheer magnitude of the problem.
“Statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused in this country before the age of 18,” she told the crowd. “My message is about shattering the silence and that there is no shame in being a survivor. We unfortunately are a victim blaming society. We can end this cycle. People need to know that healing is possible.”
Rose said that one of the most important things that can come out of the Naperville rally and others like it is an understanding of how to deal the issue and, vitally, how to handle the victims.
“You must believe the victim, and realize when people do come forward, they are usually credible,” she said. “Today nine out of 10 women who are raped in college never report it. We can’t use ‘blame’ language when we talk to victims, things like ‘what were you doing there?’ or ‘what were you wearing?’ Those things don’t help. We need people to be good listeners and also to provide local resources.”
The Naperville event included more than just speakers. It also featured a number of very visual scenes to help bring home the severity of the abuse problem.
Secretary for the Take Back the Night event, Coleen Heflin, said the events were all important in their way.
“We have a clothesline project where we string T-shirts people have made as a part of their therapy process and we hang them out on a line as a way of ‘airing out the dirty laundry’ and getting their feelings and experiences out there,” she said.
Dozens of pieces of laundry hung around Central Park as people walked around them, taking in their impact.
Danita Bergrud of Naperville was visibly moved.
“This was something I wanted to show my daughter because you hear about these things, but people feel ‘this is not something that could happen to me,’” Bergrud said with tears in her eyes. “You see these T-shirts on the line and the impact is incredible. You see this could happen to anyone.”
There was also a “silent witness” display which had life-size cut-outs of people who have died through assault and abuse. Their stories were told on a card mounted on each form.
There was also a candlelight ceremony to honor all the victims of abuse who have died in DuPage County.
For many at the event, being open about abuse is the key.
Latanza Mason, 15, and her mother Gloria, both from Naperville, came to visit the exhibits. They said that Naperville is a place where people are often embarrassed to admit domestic violence occurs.
“When something like this happens, you just feel that it will somehow all go away,” Gloria said, who admitted she had been a victim of abuse. “If it hadn’t been for the local Family Shelter Service here, I wouldn’t have survived. As far as reporting things, you’re always afraid that you’ll be judged.”
But those feelings need to be overcome, she said. Apparently, her daughter Latanza has learned the lesson.
“My mother always wants me to come with her to events like this and see that being a victim is nothing to be ashamed of,” she said.
“People need to take a chance, and help others to help you.”