Take Back the Night

With the highest crime rates per capita in Canada and the recent murders of three Aboriginal women by an alleged serial killer casting a dark shadow over the streets of Winnipeg, it’s understandable to see why women might feel unsafe on our streets.

On Thursday Sept. 20, people from all over the city will gather to march for safer streets for all and an end of violence against women at the annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) March.

“For me TBTN is necessary because it is a worldwide issue that impacts us all—to some [it is] first hand experience, to others it happened to a friend, family member, co-worker—it is important to take a stance and build awareness in our communities,” says community member Lindsay Hourie.

The first documented march to reclaim a feeling of safety on the streets was in Philadelphia in 1975 when a young woman was stabbed and killed by a stranger a block from her home. In the past 32 years, the march has evolved to not just reveal the fear and danger a woman faces when walking alone at night, but to shine a light on domestic violence and safer streets for all.

The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centers designated the third Friday evening of September for communities to march in solidarity.  This year’s march takes place in the North End, in the Turtle Island community, a deviation from a frequent previous location at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre.

“The organizing committee was thoughtful about the area of the city we wanted to march through,” said Jann Ticknor, Advocacy Coordinator for Women’s Health Clinic.

“Marching through the communities around Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre is to honour and acknowledge the women missing and murdered in an area historically known as dangerous for young women in particular.”

Although the statistics are grim—in 2009, 48,000 Manitoba women reported sexual assault in a Stats Canada General Social Survey—the event is always buzzing with optimism and positive energy for the future.

“My 15 year old son had no idea. I am encouraging him and his girlfriend to join me on this march. He needs to feel it, hear it and embrace it [ . . . ] I hope that he will contribute to discussions about violence against women,” Hourie says.

As hundreds of women and their allies head out to reclaim the night with their noisemakers, one can only hope that someday this sense of safety and community will be permanent.