Twenty-two years in, Krista Koch says the need for local women to Take Back the Night is as urgent as ever.
This Friday, September 15th, a large group of women and children will march out of Bannerman Park, and through the downtown streets on their way to a public rally outside City Hall. Organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre, it will mark the 22nd annual Take Back the Night march in the city. Men are warmly invited to take part in the public rally and gathering, but the march itself is for women.
“We are dedicated to ending violence against women, and we are proud to organize these Take Back the Night marches as a way to gather women’s voices, and speak for those who are still silent,” says Centre coordinator Tracy Duffy.
The first ‘Reclaim the Night’ march was held in Belgium in 1976 by the women attending the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women. They marched together in solidarity, holding candles to illuminate the ways in which violence permeates the lives of women worldwide.
Why we are still marching? After three decades of women speaking out against violence, working to raise awareness, advocating for policy and legislative changes, running crisis centres and transition houses…
Because we still need to.
Newfoundland and Labrador still exceeds the national average for sexual assault offences. Between 2004 and 2005 there were more than 1,000 admissions of women and children to shelters in this province. We still have women like Goldie Loveless dying at the hands of her common-law husband in Hermitage last month.
Indeed, violence against women comes in many forms. It’s the recent armed abduction and repeated sexual assault of a woman sitting in her car outside a gas station in Kilbride. It’s also the sexist jokes, put-downs and belittlements. It’s the controlling behaviour, and the objectification. It’s economic violence, where the majority of poor in this province are women. It’s the lenient sentencing. It’s the victim blaming. The list goes on.
Some women march against a lack of political will, because funding to women’s services is minimal and always on shaky ground. Some march to ask why only 1 of 32 Members of Parliament from the Atlantic Provinces is a woman. Some want to know why feminism is still “the f-word,” or why we still have inadequate supports for women with disabilities, senior women, aboriginal women and new immigrant women.
Many women participate to make visible the real cost of violence in their lives, others to be out at night without the threat of harm. More than anything, it’s a chance to publicly celebrate women’s solidarity and strength, our refusal to accept the violence against us.
So again we march, and ask when we will no longer need to.