Take Back the Night marchers challenge gendered violence
“Tri-Cities Unite! Take back the night!, ” rang the voices of over 200 women and frans-people as they marched through the streets of Kitchener-Waterloo on Sept. 26 for the annual Take Back the Night march, a protest that calls for an end to gendered violence.
The marchers gathered in Waterloo Park for an opening rally, where they were joined by several of Waterloo’s public officials including Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran; Catherine Fife, MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo; and city councillors Jeff Henry and Melissa Durrell.
A sea of brightly-coloured signs were displayed by the crowd, some expressing frustration towards the systemic violence against women and others with messages of hope for a better future.
“It’s been 30 years,” said event coordinator Laura Black in the opening ceremony. “It has been 30 years of providing an event that addresses the rights of women and trans-people to be safe without violence, regardless of age, creed, location, number, sexual orientation or attire.”
Black shared the grim reality of sexual violence in the community of Kitchener-Waterloo, noting that in 2012 alone there were 398 cases of sexual assault reported to Waterloo Regional Police.
“When we consider that less than ten per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police annually, we begin to glimpse the magnitude of sexual violence in our community,” said Black.
Black explained that while progress has been made since the first Take Back the Night march 30 years ago, there remains a dire need to change the societal norms which are at the base of violence against women.
“This is evident by the homicide [and] suspicious deaths in Waterloo Region in 2013 so far,” she said. “There have been four homicides or suspicious deaths in Waterloo Region since January [and] four out of five of these victims have been women.”
Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran shared her own personal story of sexual violence at the rally and offered heartfelt words of support to the marchers.
“You know it’s really bittersweet to be here in so many ways,” Halloran said. “I look at each and every one of you, each beautiful face, each incredibly beautiful face. And as women, and I want to thank the men that are here in support, but to each and every one of you I want to say that we shouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t have to be doing this after 30 years.”
Halloran explained that she was a victim of sexual assault in the workplace several years ago, at a time when there simply were no support groups, let alone legislation to protect women from such occurrences.
“I hope we’re not doing this in 30 years. I’m proud of you, you make my heart full. I look at all of you and I know that there’s support in our community. We’re taking back our night,” she continued.
“Women, children, and people of all genders can walk in our community and feel safe. Thank you for what you’re doing, you’re really heroes to me.”
Ioana Babus, a student from the University of Waterloo, was joined by two of her friends at the march. The students were excited to be a part of such a powerful event.
“It was fun and it was a peaceful way to get our message out there, she said. “It was a nice way for the community to come together.”