Three males came to Tuesday night’s discussion on domestic violence. That alone made the event a success in the eyes of the panel.
“We need allies,” said Njoki Kamau, a panel member and the associate director of the Northwestern University Women’s Center. “We cannot end sexual violence, or sexism for that matter, without guy allies.”
Co-sponsored by the Northwestern Community Development Corps (NCDC) and the College Feminists, the panel highlighted Northwestern student involvement in local service organizations like Apna Ghar, a shelter geared to the needs of South Asian women, and Deborah’s Place, a shelter whose mission is to break the cycle of homelessness for women.
Kelly Kirkpatrick, a SESP sophomore, and Ann Marie Dvorak, a Weinberg sophomore, planned the event to help promote Take Back the Night, a rally down Sheridan Avenue on Thursday night promoting equal rights for women that will start from the Rock.
“There are a lot of Northwestern students devoting their time every week to volunteering for women’s shelters,” Kirkpatrick said.
Kamau said that although most college students think of domestic violence as a problem only married couples deal with, the character of the college experience makes students vulnerable to violent relationships too.
“When you are in high school you are still under the wings of your parents, and in college you are supposed to be defining yourself,” Kamau said. “It is very easy to get manipulated and to be exploited…It’s a dangerous situation.”
The small audience at the event consisted mainly of female members of the two student groups. Kamau acknowledged that the small crowd shows students passionate about women’s issues will be preaching to the choir most of the time.
“These are not popular subjects. For students, [sitting in on a discussion] is not the best way to spend their time,” she said. “They have other things to do…But the catalyst for change is always a few people who are working deeply and passionately, who are always at the forefront.”
To increase student participation next year, Kirkpatrick plans to target sorority members since they’ve supported Take Back the Night in the past.
For Tuesday’s discussion though, “the guys” in the room were a sign of change, said Loretta Line, director of advocacy and outreach at the YWCA Evanston/North Shore. She said that when she was young, men didn’t show up to these kind of events.
Nikolai Smith, a SESP sophomore and one of “the guys,” believes that both the discussion and Take Back the Night could have stronger participation if fraternities became more involved.
“The fraternities go through a little training about how girls are raped on campus but after that, no one really cares,” Smith said. “They should really be here tonight. There aren’t many boys in the audience but really, there aren’t many people at all in the audience. This room should be filled.”