BY ASHLEY KOWITZ
“Tri-Cities unite! Take back the night!”
That was one of a number of chants that could be heard down King Street on Sept. 26 as more than 200 people took to the streets as part of the 30th annual Take Back the Night rally and march.
Take Back the Night is an event that focuses on the rights of women and trans people to be safe without violence, regardless of age, creed, location, numbers or attire.
The first Take Back the Night event in Kitchener-Waterloo took place in 1983, the same year that the law changed, making it illegal for spouses to commit an act of sexual assault against their wives.
While the event has shed light on the topic, sexual assault is still prevalent in Canada.
According to the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASCWR), it’s expected that 27 per cent of women in Canada will face sexual assault at some point in their lives. Statistics Canada noted that sexual assault is vastly under-reported, with only 6 per cent of sexual assaults actually being reported to police. This is one of the facts that was addressed during the rally.
“Take Back the Night provides a space for women’s voices to be heard on the issue of violence against women and provides an opportunity for women to stand together in solidarity to address gendered violence in our community,” said Sara Casselman, public relations and operations manager of SASCWR.
The event began in Waterloo Park with keynote speaker, Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran and moved through the park led by the Tri-City Roller Girls. The march then made its way along King Street from uptown Waterloo and through downtown Kitchener, ending at the Victoria Park Pavilion.
The march drew a lot of attention, bringing people from their homes and out of businesses. Drivers honked their vehicle horns to show their support and some spectators clapped and cheered as the group passed.
“I think it’s important for my daughters to see women standing up for themselves and each other. They need to see that,” said Sue Jenkins, a Kitchener resident and mother of two, who brought both of her daughters to the event. Jenkins also said that it’s important for her daughters to know their rights.
Casselman said, “Too often sexual assault prevention work is focused on women; we know that men have a critical role to play in ending male violence against women.”
Mike Hyde was one of the men who came out to show his support during the march. He and two friends stood along King Street with a banner that read “Ending sexual assault is men’s responsibility.”
“I do think there are steps male allies can take now like talking to or even mentoring the boys and young men in their life to provide an alternative to that gender conditioning,” Hyde said. “Holding abusers accountable and challenging misogyny and trans bigotry within their organizations, groups and circles of friends is also very important.”
Take Back the Night brings these topics to the foreground, along with making women aware of their rights and reminding them they’re not alone.
“While progress has been made on some fronts (such as sexual assault support services are now available to survivors), much remains to be done to change the societal norms at the root of violence against women,” Casselman said.
And Take Back the Night along with SASCWR will continue to challenge these societal norms hoping for change.
To reach the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region you can visit their website at www.sascwr.org or their crisis line by calling 519-741-8633.
BY ASHLEY KOWITZ