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Calling on the community

The local task force Keeping Ashland Women Safe is holding an event on Sept. 20 to discuss violence against women in Ashland and what can be done to prevent it.

The purpose of the event aligns with the task force’s greater mission, according to its founder, Alaya Ketani: to ignite the community — men and women alike — to discuss local violence against women and, ultimately, spark change.

“And I’m a big believer,” Ketani said. “This violence can be changed.”

The Sept. 20 event marks the third community gathering for KAWS, Ketani says. She started the task force earlier this year to create a platform to advocate, educate and empower those who experience sexual violence and dispel what she says is a misconception that Ashland is a “safe, women’s town.”

The task force recently “came under the umbrella” of Peace House, allowing it to receive tax deductible donations, which will lead to the creation of a website and bring cultural deprogramming and empowerment trainings to the area, Ketani said.

Ketani said the September event comes in light of an incident in early August when a man allegedly forced himself on a woman before her roommate intervened, which prompted a series of events, including a foot chase, that ended with the man being tased.

The man faces felony charges that include attempted rape, sexual abuse and burglary, along with misdemeanor escape.

“And stories like this are not rare,” Ketani said. “Women consistently contact me to tell me their stories of violence and in search of community and an awareness of what to do after such a horrible situation.”

KAWS’ September event, called “Deep Dialogue, Revolving Panel,” will be “town hall-like,” allowing attendees to share their stories, fears and questions, she said.

Most importantly, the event will ask a central question: What is our individual and community responsibility regarding violence against women?

“We’re calling on the community here to ask what changes can be made to make Ashland a no-violence city,” Ketani said. “How can we make reporting of violence the norm, how can we make conversation about this happen?”

Ketani said only one in 10 sexual assaults against women are reported throughout the state of Oregon — a statistic that Police Chief Tighe O’Meara confirmed.

KAWS partners with local groups, including the Ashland Police Department, Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team and Community Works to accomplish their mission. Ketani said the task force recently conducted a survey asking women where in town they felt unsafe, and shared the information with O’Meara.

“An immediate benefit of our partnership is finding out on our end where women feel unsafe here,” O’Meara said. “I am grateful for that information — it’s very useful going forward looking to make changes.”

O’Meara said “he’s all in” regarding finding ways to increase the frequency of reporting on violence in the community.

“Removing barriers for women to report and tell us better what’s going on around them will allow us to better serve the community and local women,” he said. “This task force is helping create a city where violence against women is not tolerated.”

“Deep Dialogue, Revolving Panel” will discuss topics including societal programming, empowerment, confusion and consent, reporting, shock and trauma and creating a zero-tolerance city.

The event, which runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at Love Revolution, 383 E. Main St., is open to adult men and women as well as mature teenagers accompanied by their parents.

“Everything we do to make violence in Ashland known matters,” Ketani said. “It is a complex problem, but we need to make a ‘not in my city’ message loud and clear.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporting intern Morgan Theophil at mtheophil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4485. Follow her on Twitter @morgan_theophil.

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