Confronting Abuse: Tahoe City march takes back the night |

Confronting Abuse: Tahoe City march takes back the night

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunAlice Baldwin walks with a candle at the Take Back the Night event in Tahoe City.

Preciously guarding their candles’ flames from the brisk gusts of wind, some 30 women and men marched through Tahoe City Wednesday to protest rape, violence and sexual assault against women.

“This night is about making it safe for women to go anywhere they want, anytime they want and not be afraid,” said Rosie Striffler, who works in the Tahoe Women’s Services prevention program. “Especially at night.”

As part of April’s designation as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Tahoe Women’s Services hosted a Take Back the Night rally at Commons Beach in Tahoe City, where local residents spoke out against sexual assault.

Take Back the Night is a national protest against rape and other violence against women. The international rallies typically include candlelight vigils, empowerment marches and survivor testimonials.

Two rows of T-shirts hung on a clothesline behind the microphone where several speakers stood to share their story or information about sexual abuse. Each colorful shirt flapping in the wind was a witness to an individual testimony about violence or sexual assault.

“Abuse has many faces,” one shirt read. “I still feel scared and confused,” said another. One in white was made by a mother in memory of her 17-year-old son who had been killed by his father.

“Every time I help hang the clothesline project, I hope that a woman gets the courage to tell her story,” said Melanie Cleary, a Tahoe Women’s Services volunteer.

Cleary gathered up the courage to speak about her very personal and powerful survival story of sexual abuse and domestic violence to the crowd. An experienced public speaker, Wednesday evening was the first time Cleary had shared her testimony to crowd of this size.

“For a really long time, I didn’t know how valuable I was,” she said, after describing the atrocities she had faced in her youth. “I didn’t know that I was deserving of a life of peace and happiness.”

Sharing her story, Cleary said, was what finally brought her healing.

“It’s so important because it can be life changing to tell your story,” Cleary said. “And it can be life ending not to.”

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