More than one hundred people came out last Thursday night to participate in the Take Back the Night march. Take Back the Night is an international annual event, the local march was organized by Castlegar’s Violence Against Women in Relationships (VAWIR) committee. The mission of the event is ending sexual, relationship, and domestic violence in all forms.
An energetic and passionate group gathered near Canadian Tire and then marched down Columbia Ave. with a police escort. The group was serenaded along by Valley Samba — a group of enthusiastic drummers from the Slocan Valley. When asked why they decided to join the march, drummer Marilyn Hatfield stated, “We certainly believe that all people should feel safe and be able to speak up if they are in trouble or in a situation that is dangerous for them — that’s why we are here.”
After stopping near Safeway the group participated in songs, speeches and remembrances. Fire Chief Gerry Rempel stated in his opening prayer, “We have domestic violence against women in general — we ask, Creator, that we are successful in our mission to end violence against all women.”
One of the most encouraging parts of the event was seeing a group of teenagers actively engaged, dancing to the drums and carrying signs that read: “Silence doesn’t equal consent”, “Women unite, take back the night” and “No means no”.
Nicole Beetstra, who emceed the event explained, “This is an awareness event about violence against women and violence in general. I’ve got a story myself to tell about my family so I think it is a really important message that people are aware and really come out and support it and put an end to the violence.”
In a press release promoting the event VAWIR shared the following information: “While many think the West Kootenay is safe, the statistics show otherwise for women. Every year in BC there are over 60,000 physical or sexual assaults against women — almost all of which are committed by men. One in three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime (Statistics Canada).
“On any given night in Canada, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters because it isn’t safe at home. On any given night, about 300 women and children are turned away because shelters are already full (Shelters for Abused Women in Canada, 2014, Statistics Canada).
“Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called women’s issues but these are intrinsically men’s issues.”
The statement also included ways that men in the community can assist:
- Listen to women when they tell you what they do or don’t want, believe women when they tell you about their experiences, support them when they fight against abuse and oppression. Ask women how the threat of violence affects their daily lives. Ask how they think men can prevent sexual violence.
- Think about and examine your own attitudes and actions, and think about how they may perpetuate sexism and violence — then work towards changing them.
- Speak out and hold your male friends accountable when they make sexist comments (even when women are not around) or when they pressure or force someone into any kind of sexual activity. Intervene with men who engage in such violence.
- Support services for survivors of men’s violence.
“Take Back the Night offers the opportunity for us all — women and men — to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change,” VAWIR concluded.
If you are a victim of abuse, local victim’s services can be accessed through the RCMP as well as Castlegar & District Community Services which offers programs including sexual abuse intervention, safe homes, children who witness abuse, stopping the violence counseling, bridges for women, and family and women’s support.