“No more silence! No more violence!” shouted a woman on the megaphone, as she led a march of about a hundred women and children through the dark streets of Fredericton. It was the annual Take Back the Night march, organized by the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (FSACC).
Take Back the Night marches happen throughout the world to raise awareness about ongoing sexual violence against women. On this night, everyone came for different reasons, whether they had been victims of sexual violence, knew a victim, or wanted to be there in solidarity.
I sat with FSACC volunteers and Take Back the Night organizers Kimberley Douglass and Joanna Mills to find out more about the annual event.
MCA: What is Take Back the Night about?
KD: Take Back the Night is about women reclaiming – or claiming – the right to walk on the street at night in the dark or anytime that they feel threatened. So it’s done at night to symbolize the fear that women may have about being out at night alone.
MCA: Why is the march limited to women and children?
KD: The same reason as why we do it. The purpose of the march is to allow women to reclaim the right to march, so we march by ourselves as women. If men want to come and support us, we more than welcome them but if they walked with us, we wouldn’t be reclaiming the streets. In order to reclaim the streets, we have to do it ourselves.
MCA: What role can men take?
KD: They can come and see us off. There’s a short rally before the march starts and we have a couple of people who speak very briefly to start us off. We have some activities planned for them while they wait for us to come back. Then there is a reception and a bit of an art show when we get back, which we like everyone to come to.
MCA: How did Take Back the Night get started?
KD: Here in Fredericton it was in 1985. There was a conference about violence against women and they held a march that year, and they have been holding it in Fredericton since then.
MCA: Could you explain what is FSACC and the work it does?
KD: Our primary focus is to ultimately end sexual violence against women. In order to do that we know that we have to empower women and provide them with assistance in acquiring the strength to stand up against violence against women. Our focus is sexual violence; we have a 24 hour crisis line and we provide some counselling. We are a volunteer organization.
MCA: What do you say to those who argue that such actions are no longer relevant?
KD: Unfortunately, we’ve gained legal rights, but we have a really difficult time getting the system to enforce those or to allow us to gain those goals. The second wave of feminism brought in all of our legal rights, and made sure that human rights included women’s rights, but in the 30 years since then we haven’t had a whole lot of action to back that up.
JM: And I think it’s people’s perception. For example, the law states that someone can’t rape their wife. The law may state that, but it doesn’t necessarily enforce it. And how do you enforce it when there’s a lot of victim blaming. That’s what FSACC tries to do, raise awareness. That’s why things like [Take Back the Night] do that. They do raise awareness, hopefully.
Marie-Christine Allard is a member of the NB Media Co-op.