In the dark

One of the greatest obstacles facing the newly chartered Miami-Oxford NOW was the lack of awareness of women’s issues and the need for women’s resources within the Oxford

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Celebrated local folk-singer Therese Edell, Miami-Oxford NOW founder Kathy McMahon-Klosterman and member Betsy Lippit at the first Oxford Take Back the Night March, 1979.

community and Miami administration. Butler County NOW had brought the first wave of programming and support for women, especially in cases of sexual and interpersonal violence and abuse. According to McQueen, “All the agencies in this county that help women,” from Dove House domestic violence shelter to the local rape crisis hotline, “all started with Butler County NOW.” However, due to University transportation policies students could not access these community resources. At the national level, women were actively discussing issues such as marital rape and domestic violence, both inside and outside the home. They challenged the notion that women were somehow accountable for abuse based on their behavior, dress, or previous romantic history.

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Rumors surrounding sexual violence and protest at Miami University were so pervasive that they caught the attention of multiple local media outlets, Middletown Paper, Oct. 1979.

The Miami Student
ran a twelve part series discussing the epidemic of sexual assault on Miami’s campus and the efforts of organizations like Oxford-Miami NOW to provide resources and support for survivors. It seemed the community was at a crossroads on the issue. Some saw it as the unspoken, preventable problem. On March 30th the Student ran a piece called “Avoiding the potential rape” in which then Oxford Police Officer Danny O’Malley of the crime prevention department suggested that rape was simply an uncomfortable reality for women, one that they should be “psychologically prepared for.” His advice in the case of assault was to, “talk to him,

Take Back the Night is a non-violent organization and protest with regional demonstrations held annually across the country and internationally.

throw up on him or comply with him until you get a chance to flee.” He also suggested that a woman tell her potential attacker that, “she has a venereal disease.” The Middletown Paper reported on October 26, 1979 that Danny O’Malley, Miami University’s sitting assistant director of the safety and security department, stated that as of January 1st, 1979 “we have not had a reported rape, attempted rape or sexual battery.” On the other hand, the Student’s final expose on the prevalence of sexual violence in Oxford stated that “…resident assistants and sorority pledge trainers,” those who interacted closely with students on a daily basis, “have been known to warn women that more than 200 rapes have occurred here in a semester.” Complacency, lack of awareness, and the University’s closed-door policy on information relating to the pervasiveness of sexual assault finally led to an outpouring of frustration and protest.

On October 29, 1979 Miami-Oxford NOW held its first Take Back the Night event. Over two hundred Oxford men and women gathered with candles and flashlights to march in

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Volunteers Jane Goettsch (future Director of the Women’s Resource Center and Miami-Oxford NOW President) and Jay Schadler (future news anchor for ABC News and Dateline) lay glow in the dark tape across sites of on-campus sexual assault, 1979.

solidarity with victims and survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence. Volunteers laid glow in the dark tape on locations across campus and Oxford proper where victims had been raped or assaulted. Local Cincinnati activist and folk-singer, Therese Edell, wrote and performed an original song to commemorate the march and for demonstrators to sing as they made their way from across campus. We are women in full sight. We are women taking back the night. The protest even made its way onto the UPI wires, distributing news of the success of the Miami-Oxford’s Take Back the Night event to news outlets across the country.

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