Survivors unite to Take Back the Night

Monday, September 21, 2009

  • Take Back the Night events have
occurred since the 1970s to draw attention to gender-based violence against
women. (iStock pho

    Take Back the Night events have occurred since the 1970s to draw attention to gender-based violence against women. (iStock pho

Written by Josh Gilbert

Women, transfolk and children took to the streets of Guelph on Thursday night to demonstrate opposition to sexual assault, harassment and gendered violence in the community.

Around 100 people attended the demonstration and festive street march, now in its 27th year. Starting at Marianne’s Park, the rally made its way down Gordon Street toward the downtown core.

Throughout the march, the crowd made itself loud and clear by waving banners and placards and chanting slogans.

Take Back the Night events have occurred since the 1970s to draw attention to gender-based violence against women including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment and other unhealthy relationships. Marches and rallies have been held in England, Belgium, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean Islands, the United States and other cities around the globe.

Participant Amelia Hall said that Take Back the Night remained an important way to bring violence against women to the forefront.

"Take Back The Night is my high holiday,” Hall said. “It’s the one chance a year to get out on the streets and remind people this is still happening.”

Front-line workers say a lack of security continues to be daily reality for many women at home and in the streets. In 2008, Guelph Police responded to 1173 domestic violence calls – an average of 3.2 every day – beating out the 2007 record of 1053.

Guelph-Wellington Women In Crisis, who organize Take Back the Night, said it received an average 10 calls per night to its Crisis Line, more than double the previous year.

Sexual assault is considered one of the most under-reported crimes, with upwards of 90 per cent of sexual assaults never being reported, according to Statistics Canada.

The campus community was heavily involved in preparation for the event, with the Guelph resource Centre For Gender Empowerment and Diversity (GRCGED) supplying placards

“Its one thing to talk about it in your university classes but when you have a whole bunch of different people from the community that come together around these issues it draws a whole different picture," explained U of G student Sarah White.

A controversial issue at the demonstration was the presence of Guelph Police cruisers, composed of predominantly male officers, who escorted the marchers down the road.

Guelph Wellington Women In Crisis organized the police escort to help stop traffic during the march, however a few participants were not pleased.

Two youth held placards that read "Cops make me feel unsafe," and "who do you call when the police are perpetrators?"

One participant, who asked not to be identified, said the escort demonstrated how far society still has to go to address gendered violence.

"What breaks my heart and ruins my favourite day of the year is the fact that we are escorted by the police. We should be able to take back our streets without anybody’s permission.”

For more information on how to get involved in the struggle to end gender based violence, check out the Guelph Resource Center for Gender Empowerment and Diversity, on the first floor of the UC Room 107, or the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.

If you or someone you know needs support, call the 24-hour Women In Crisis confidential crisis line at 519-836-5710 or 1-800-265-SAFE (7233)

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