May 25, 2024

Moving beyond marches and rallies the “Take Back the Night” (TBTN) movement is widening its scope and developing into a platform for survivors to tell their stories, look for assistance, and promote policy changes aimed at preventing sexual violence and providing support services.

Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASCWR) organized the fortieth anniversary of the movement on September 21 in Kitchener.

“Rather than feeling weak, I have begun to feel empowered while telling my story. In myself, I have not only found a survivor, but a hero,” Melinda Visouvath, a sexual assault survivor, told the assembled the crowd.

According to Shelter Movers, an advocacy group, fourteen women experience some form of sexual assault every single day in Waterloo Region alone.

“We aim to convey that sexual assault deeply affects real individuals who grapple with trauma and persistent fear resulting from such violence,” said Renu Dhaliwal, the Violence Prevention Educator at SASCWR and co-planner of TBTN.

“Taking Back the Night is about taking back your power as a survivor and about reclaiming your voice that was taken from you,” said Sarah Siembida, a Spoken Word Poet & Poet Laureate of Smart Waterloo Region.

Siembida addressed a poem to the crowd on sexual assault called “life sentence” from her debut book – Memoirs of an Indian before the march ascended.

The march traveled 1.3 kilometers. Along the route, participants chanted slogans while waving feminist signs and banners. The march culminated at Kitchener City Hall.

“This moment of solidarity and reflection was essential in conveying our message,” said Dhaliwal.

The chants and slogans included:

  • Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no
  • 1,2,3,4! We won’t take it anymore! 5,6,7,8! Stop the violence, stop the hate!
  • Claim our bodies, claim our rights! Take a stand, take back the night!

Jamaican-Canadian Artist and Musician, Joni NehRita, performing at the march.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women,” said Sannoor Sohal, a university of Waterloo student attending the march.

A report by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives says that Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge are the least safe communities for women in urban Canada. According to the organizers it was through the march that they established a secure and empowering environment that amplifies the voices of those who have silently endured their suffering.

“We compel both those in positions of power and our local communities to confront the reality that sexual violence is an ongoing issue demanding urgent attention and change,” said Sarah Stuparits, program director at the TBTN foundation.

A bystander intervention workshop was arranged for those who were unable to attend the march. Community partners of the movement hosted booths featuring resources and information aimed at addressing a wide range of social issues.

Community partners of Take Back the Night (Source: Sexual Assault Support Centre)

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