The approx. 150 people milling beneath the glowing marquee of Logan Square’s Congress Theater earlier this evening were not stopping by the venue to see a show, but rather to show their support for the victim of what 14th District Police Commander Linda Flores described as a “vicious, violent, and disgusting” crime.
“We are working on it, we will not stop,” Commander Flores promised the group, comprised of members of local service and community organizations, rape advocacy networks, elected officials, Congress theater personnel, media, and concerned residents.
This past New Year’s Eve, an 18-year-old North Shore teen was denied entry to the 17+ DJ Rusko concert at the Congress because she did not have an ID. Shortly after leaving the venue, the teen was beaten and raped, according to reports. The horrific news shocked residents and quickly inspired the Alliance of Local Service Organizations [ALSO] to organize a gathering to respond to the assault, share resources, and show support for the victim, whom according to this Chicagoist report is home and in recovery.
“She [the victim] didn’t live in the neighborhood, but she came into our ward,” said 1st Ward Ald. ‘Proco’ Joe Moreno, who called the rapists “evil boys” who did a “cowardly act.” To the unknown rapists, Moreno delivered the applause-eliciting, “Whether you’re from here, from out of state, from the suburbs, you are not welcome in Logan Square.” The alderman then emphasized the great block parties on Rockwell and Talman streets as well as events at the Congress theater like the Farmers’ Market for which he hopes the venue will be known for, and not this event.
34th District State Rep. Toni Berrios said, “Unfortunately we started the year off on such a negative note [in Logan Square]. I’m pleased to see the community here. We are a community that is safe, but when you have animals do such negative acts to an individual who did not ask for it, it is disheartening…. If you saw people screaming, running down the alley, call the police,” Berrios said, echoing the words of Senator Iris Y. Martinez, who called the perpetrators cowards and animals. Martinez pledged to continue rallying Springfield to help support funding for groups like ALSO and Rape Victim Advocates. (Pictured is a photo of Rep. Berrios snapped inside the Congress during a Back to School Health Fair, 2010.)
Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of Rape Victim Advocates, cautioned that too much emphasis has been placed on the victim being from suburbs, implying that the city is somehow more dangerous than the suburbs.
“Sexual assault happens everywhere,” Majmudar said. She then requested that people do three things if they know someone whose been affected by rape:
1) Believe them.
2) Remind them that it is not their fault.
“This young woman is not alone,” said Steve Adler of the RVA. “98% of sexual assaults are committed by men. It’s a men’s issue, not a women’s issue. We live in a rape culture, where men are brought up telling rape jokes.”
Adler credited the security guards at the Congress for intervening and capturing three of the six suspects, who were later released because they’re allegedly juveniles. “It was security guards who saw what happened, who did do something,” Adler noted.
Farhana Becker lives near the theater, and says she came out to support the victim as well as help to get the word out on self defense classes at Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self Defense Center, for which she was passing out fliers. Becker said that she feels like crime, particularly attacks on women, too often goes under-reported, with the news often getting out weeks or sometimes even a month later. “We need to get the word out faster,” she said.
Nicole, a resident of Portage Park, and formerly of Logan Square, came to the gathering with her infant. “There was only one tiny article in the Sun-Times about it [the rape],” Nicole said, adding, “I am taken aback that there’s so little information out there.”
Attending the gathering with her toddler daughter, a doctor from Bucktown’s All Women’s Health said, “There is no place for this [rape] in Chicago. I’m glad to see the community stepping up. Violence against women is unacceptable.”
After the rally, which concluded with a call ["Break the silence"] and crowd response ["End sexual violence"], The Pipeline chatted with Paul Levin, executive director of the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce, who shared that he’s confidant that the police will soon find the guilty parties, and, if that is the case, the next step is for people to come out to court at 26th and California to show their support, to see that justice is done, Levin urged.