Marching through the night

By Gus Bode

Participants remember victims of domestic violence at the Take Back the Night march on Friday

Robin Ebert’s mother was not there.

She was not there because she was beaten and strangled by her husband in May, while Robin and her brother were in the house, her uncle and guardian Bill Connors said. Robin had turned three-years-old the day before.

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Connors wore a purple ribbon around his arm in memory of his sister and pushed her stroller down the Strip Friday night. They were just two of about 200 people whose lives have been influenced by domestic violence, rape and sexual violence and walked in the annual and national Take Back the Night march sponsored by The Women’s Center.

A white dove made from paper and feathers bobbed and dipped in the windy night air, leading the marchers carrying candles in paper cups. The crowd included women, men, children and families.

Before the march, people gathered at the Interfaith Center and picked up candles and chant booklets from a tent.

About 25 Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority sisters made good use of the booklets, frequently starting chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, rape and violence got to go!” They also chanted “Women unite, take back the night!”

“Half of us are social work majors. A lot of us want to do a lot with the community when we get out of school,” said Sara Evans, a sorority member.

At the end of the march, participants were greeted with cups of hot chocolate and cookies at the Town Square Pavilion, where The Clothesline Project was on display.

T-shirts collected over the years and made by survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, incest, hate crime, rape or are in memory of someone killed by violence hung.

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Perhaps the most moving part of the evening came as the keynote speaker told her daughter’s story.

Jenny Crompton was murdered when she was 15-years-old by her high school boyfriend. Vicky Crompton-Tetter spoke of the events leading up to her murder.

She said it started like many domestic violence situations – a fairy tale. Mark was the perfect older man. He walked her to class and her parents loved him.

After six months together, he became jealous and possessive. Mark demanded to know where Jenny was at all times and whom she was with. He broke into her locker and read notes from her friends documenting his abusive personality. When she ended the relationship, he started breaking into her house.

“The fairytale turned into a nightmare,” Crompton-Tetter said.

One afternoon, the Friday before the Homecoming dance, Jenny got on the bus and came home.

Mark was waiting. He stabbed her 66 times.

When Jenny’s stepfather came home with her 1-year-old brother, it was already too late.

Only when Mark was on trial for Jenny’s murder did Crompton-Tetter learn the events of the last months of her daughter’s life; the beatings, the hidden bruises and scars, the emotional abuse.

She said her family has forgiven Mark.

“Somebody described it as me drinking the poison and thinking he would be the one to die,” Crompton-Tetter said of the anger.

After her speech, the audience powerfully applauded with many people in tears.

The microphone sat on the ground for a period of time afterwards, an open forum for anyone who wanted to tell their story.

Perry Hunter was one of the first to pick it up.

Hunter, a prevention educator at the Women’s Center, recounted walking in on his sister being beaten by her boyfriend after briefly leaving and then returning to his house. As Hunter tried to stop him, the boyfriend stabbed his sister. She had 300 stitches in her hands, where she blocked the knife from her heart.

“I don’t even remember why I went back,” Hunter said.

Brittan Perry was the last person to speak. Perry said an older high school boy raped her when she was 13-years-old.

“We were just walking around,” Perry said. “I remember thinking it didn’t even happen.”

She said she never told anyone about the rape until she found out about The Women’s Center seven years later.

“It doesn’t matter how long you’re quiet,” she said, urging others to speak out. “It doesn’t go away, but you can learn to coexist with other people again.”

A young girl spoke about her and her younger sister’s rapes, incest and abuse, and another woman shyly told of her mother’s gang rape and her own fears.

As the rainy night grew colder, the crowd thinned. To close the event, Rape Crisis Coordinator Ami Lilley thanked participants.

She said she hoped the march would not be back next year – she hoped it would not be needed.

Reporter Kate Galbreath can be reached at [email protected]

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