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At Time’s Up town hall, victims of past assault demand answers

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 8, 2018

Some of the women’s voices softened with emotion as they gave their testimonies.

Others tried to contain their anger and frustration.

All of the many victims of sexual assault who spoke in front of a crowd of around 150 at a town hall at the Northeast Community Center on Thursday wanted to be heard, though.

And they were, holding the attention of a 15-person panel of city officials, medical experts and advocates, all of whom deal with sexual violence and harassment cases.

The town hall – dubbed Time’s Up in connection with the national movement to bring awareness to sexual assault and to hold perpetrators accountable – also gave patrons the platform to ask questions and engage in dialogue with the panel, which included Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese, former Spokane NAACP leader Phil Tyler and Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke.

“Where is my rape kit?” one woman asked as she fought back tears. “I want to know where my rape kit is.”

“Will there ever be a sexual assault response team?” a nurse asked the panel.

The issue of victim-blaming was a common problem pointed to by the panelists at the Town Hall, which was moderated by Erin Williams-Huetter of Lutheran Community Services.

“Stop blaming the victim. You don’t know what they’ve gone through,” Knezovich said. “I don’t know how many victims have had to deal with that when investigating sexual assault. I have had to look into those eyes. I had to look into the eyes of the children.”

Burke said the local Time’s Up movement can help serve as the first step to discuss sexual harassment or sexual assault experiences.

Elected in November, Burke said she had her own dealings with harassment and has since become an advocate for those who speak out against sexual miscounduct.

“We need to make sure we let people know it’s not OK to harass or sexually assault anyone,” Burke said.

Tyler, who now works as a campus security officer at Gonzaga University, encouraged the men in the room to take a stand. He referenced other men in his life who said they are “afraid to even give a woman (a) compliment” in today’s social climate.

Tyler says that kind of thinking needs to end.

“Compliment (women) on their knowledge, what they bring to the team, their contribution to society and their body of work,” Tyler said. “Not their bodies.”

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