When I was not so young anymore, maybe early middle-aged, I felt strong and competent enough to work on “women’s issues”. So I joined several women’s groups, working with other like-minded women in the evenings after work, and in my spare time on the weekends. One of the groups I worked with was a small advocacy located near the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. It advocated against an issue that is one of the most devastating to women, it was a small, small group named Women Against Rape. It has since grown to become Ohio Domestic Violence Network, ACTION OHIO Coalition for Battered Women, Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and others. Women Against Rape announced that it would hold a march to create public awareness of problem of rape, which in the late 1980’s was work that still needed to be done. Most of the participants were college students, and as an older, perhaps stronger woman, I was asked to do safety sweep. I said I would. What I should have said was, “We should hire the police to do that.” But those were early days, live and learn.
On the day of the march, the young college students headed out along the designated streets, maybe a hundred strong. Several other ladies and myself hung back as planned so we could make sure that all went well with the rape awareness marchers. There was a banner up front, some homemade signs, some slogan chanting, and some lovely, clear-voiced singing from a religious group who had sent some members. It seemed more like a parade than a protest. There were very few men. In the early days most men were not yet aware that they needed to accompany women for safety during these public protests, or maybe these ladies had no men. As we neared our end point on the steps of the old capital building downtown, we went through a low-rent residential area, with a sleazy bar on the corner. The drunks heard us passing by and boiled out to mingle in. I grabbed the nearest drunk by the crook of my arm, as if we were going to dance a do-si-do. I smiled into the alcohol vapors coming off his face and said, “Let’s go.”, and whisked him happily back into the bar where I promptly disengaged and ran away to catch up with the unimpeded marchers. The other safety sweep ladies had dispersed his fellows according to their own styles.
There was a podium and microphones set up on the old capital steps, but that was not my job. I climbed up the steps to sit by one of the stone lions, and surveyed the scene of a hundred exhilarated young women making it clear in public that there was to be NO MORE RAPE! All those lovely, healthy, happy young women were survivors and supporters of survivors of rape. What a terrible effect rape must have had in their lives. What losses did they suffer? What opportunities did they miss out on while they recovered? As the STOP RAPE NOW program went along, the presenters began handing out "garlands of courage" to those they said had suffered the most, those who had survived violent assault. I was appalled to find myself singled out, and garlanded in public, because it was true. It is hard to keep the memory in my mind, but I do remember, and it is true. That truth still hurts.
Caption: Broken Branches, Broken Life Chances
Roses That Never Bloomed
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018