In 2012, I was asked to be one of the speakers at Take Back the Night. I was honored.
And dismayed – because really, nearly two generations later this ought to be a non-issue. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now.
Here’s what I had to say that night:
I’d like to welcome everyone to the 34th annual Take Back the Night rally and march. I’m Sabra, and currently I sit on City Council. So I’m here to represent the City of Ann Arbor. But I’m also to represent all of those who have come before you – and me.
In its own way, this is a momentous anniversary. After all, many of us at this event weren’t born in 1978, when I first marched through downtown determined to join my voice to other demanding safety and respect. But in another way, the fact that we are still marching after 34 years demonstrates how difficult it is to change our culture, and how important it is to never settle for ‘good enough’.
The City of Ann Arbor is committed to enforcing laws against sexualized assault, and to educating each of us about what that means. When we fail – and we all fail from time to time – that’s reason enough to work harder to get it right.
So we all hear it again: Sexualized assault isn’t about sex. It’s about power.
We know we have the power to say NO. We expect the people in our lives – people we know and people we have never met – to have the power to HEAR no. This is what my generation – and the generations before me – fought to give to you.
I stand before you as a woman of a certain age – one who took part in that first march, but regrets that we find safety and power marching along Ann Arbor’s streets in a group. We will really have won this battle when we can walk alone on Ann Arbor’s streets – any where, any time of day or night – and still feel unthreatened.
Our community supports Safe House in a variety of ways – from direct contributions to pajama collections and volunteer activities. But sexualized violence hasn’t decreased – and neither has the need. Our City remains committed and, in a time of conflicting priorities, hasn’t forgotten those among us who need a safe haven.
I believe this, and will work to make certain our commitment doesn’t get lost in short-term demands. And as we walk together tonight, let’s hope that 34 years from tonight, all people can walk safely and alone thought our streets.