Taking back the alley

The victims of either of two recent sexual assaults may or may not have attended a ceremony held Saturday in their honor, but thoughts were directed toward both by the dozen jacket-bundled souls burning sage and incense in hopes of cleansing — and reclaiming — the area.

Held in an alleyway along East Main, behind the Cucina Biazzi restaurant, the event was coordinated by local filmmakers Mary O'Neal and Mark Butterfield and hosted by the Group of Concerned Southern Oregonians.

Those who attended formed a circle, said a prayer for the victim of the alley attack, who told police a stranger raped her, and shared thoughts on the community's response to both recent sexual assaults.

The alley attack, the second attack in recent weeks, occurred around 2 p.m. Jan. 5 as the woman walked between the 500 block of Siskiyou Boulevard and East Main Street.

Another attack on New Year's Eve occurred near Clear Creek and North Mountain around 2 a.m.

O'Neal said a "Take Back the Night" event following the attacks inspired her to host Saturday's follow-up event. Though a bit rattled after the attacks, the Iowa Street resident refused to allow the crimes to cause her to change her routine.

"I haven't allowed it to cause me to behave differently but I have friends who are acting differently and refusing to walk places they used to," she said.

Ashland resident Morgaine Range looked over a scattering of colored index cards, held down by stones and containing messages to the victim, as she performed her own ceremony with a fistful of sage.

"I wanted to purify the area. I've been, myself, really refusing to live in fear, because I refuse to live in fear for any reason," Range said.

"I'm happy to see all these men here. It's very powerful we could all come together."

Talent resident Mary Kwart, bundled in a jacket and green beanie, spoke of wanting the community to encourage men and boys to "better deal with emotions," such as anger.

Of Saturday's event, Kwart said, "There needed to be some closure and not just reading a police report. Something people do to take back the area. I believe that kind of action that happened here left a mark and we're counteracting it by being here in this way."

Butterfield and O'Neal plan to use footage from a handful of events related to the attacks for an independent filmed tentatively titled "It Happened in Ashland."

They also hope to host a similar near the location of the New Year's Day attack.

Anyone with information about either attack is asked to call the Ashland Police Department, 541-488-2211

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