Guelph's 20th Anniversary of Take Back the Night!

Friday, September 21, 2007


Written by Victoria Brunet

Take Back the Night!: 2007

On Thursday, September 20, Guelph celebrated the 20th anniversary of Take Back The Night http://www.takebackthenightguelph.blogspot.com (TBTN). This yearly event began in Belgium in 1976 to raise awareness about sexualized violence directed toward women. It aims to empower women and children to reclaim their right to be able to walk at night with out fear of assault.

Festivities commenced at 6pm in Marianne's Park with a welcome ceremony and drum circle by Guelph Womenís Drum.

This year TBTN had a special theme; Honoring Stolen Sisters, to recognize that Aboriginal women are disproportionately affected by violence. Over 500 aboriginal women have gone missing in Canada since the 1980ís but little has been done to stop, or even acknowledge this violence.

Mary Lou Smoke; a cultural counselor for the Sisters in Spirit Campaign , of the Native Womenís Association of Canada came as a main speaker. She told rally participants about the work she does to promote healing at womenís shelters and with the families who have lost women members. She sung two powerful songs and recounted for us her own familyís personal tragedy; how her younger sister was murder and her killer was never truly attempted to be found.

Zhaleh Afshar, a TBTN organizer and public educator for Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis Center says people need to be more aware of the violence aboriginal women face because of racism and colonialism. She encourages people to work with aboriginal womenís groups and to deconstruct the oppression we exert in our own communities.

The march started at 7 oíclock just as the sun was setting. Although the rally was open to all genders, the march was exclusively for women identified people and children so that female survivors of male violence could have a safe space.

Women carried signs, shook noise makes, blew whistles and took part in chants such as:

What do we want? SAFE HOMES / SAFE STREETS! When do we want them? NOW!

The march weaved through the heart of down town where supporting by standers waved from windows and side walks, or honked on their way by in cars. ìThe march creates public awareness that violence against women is a real problem,î said Christine Sinclair; ìwe donít live in a perfect world and thereís still a lot of work to be done.î

The entire march was lead and followed by cop cars. An anonymous woman in her early twenties had this to say; ìItís not really taking back the night when we are surrounded by a bubble of protection (the squad cars). We donít have that kind of shield when we walk to the buss station alone at night. Having a police escort takes away everything but symbolism from a march to reclaim unsafe spaces.î

When asked what they thought would make the streets of Guelph safer at night women from all age groups had some suggestions. Anne Siccia, holding a glowing candle in a purple cup, thinks that; ìWomen have the responsibility to walk together and be aware of their surroundings. They should avoid short cuts and the bar areas on weekends.î Maddie, age 9, believes; ìThere should be burglar alarms and many cameras installed so that police will know immediately when something bad is going on.î

Sadly, Josephina Orton, who joined the march on her bicycle, was unsure any specific policy would be enough; ìWe were all raised in a patriarchal system, Iíll always be afraid of getting raped at night.î Her concerns are validated by statistics from 2006 where in Guelph police recorded 927 incidents of domestic violence, as well as 66 cases of sexual assault, these are only the reported incidences.

The vocal exuberant hour long march dispersed under a clear half moon after returning to Marianne's Park.

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