Organizers of the eighth annual Anti-Rape Week said yesterday that in addition to protecting women from rape they want the District to be a "Hassle-Free Zone" where women can walk the streets without fear of verbal sexual harassment.
Weeklong activities calling attention to the problems of rape and sexual harassment will begin Sunday and culminate in a "Take Back the Night" protest march Sept. 28.
"Women's human rights are being violated when we are denied the right to walk down the street or sit in the park or ride the bus or run in the park or drive our cars without being verbally raped and verbally molested by disrespectful men and boys," Nkenge Toure, director of community education for the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, said at a news conference.
The idea, Toure said, is to raise men's consciousness about the issue, not to actually declare certain streets as hassle-free zones. But she said women's groups may push District officials to pass an ordinance outlawing verbal sexual abuse.
Organizers of Anti-Rape Week say the "Take Back The Night" protest march will deliberately follow a route through Georgetown to dramatize the problem of "date-rapes."
Studies indicate an increase in date-rapes and rapes by nonstrangers, according to one march organizer, who said Georgetown is the most popular weekend dating spot in the area.
Dr. Martha Burt, citing preliminary findings in a yearlong study she conducted of rape victims in the Washington and Baltimore areas, said the emotional after-effects of rape by nonstrangers are "harsh and lingering" and every bit as traumatic as rapes by strangers.
Burt, director of social service programs at the Urban Institute, studied 113 women rape victims, aged 19 to 55.
These acquaintances, she said, included one woman's attorney and another's doctor, ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands and men with supervisory or family-friend relationships with their victims.
Dr. Burt said women often blame themselves more than the rapist for an assault by an acquaintance. These women question their sense of judgment, she said, because they feel there has been a "betrayal of trust."