You are not alone

Sec­ond an­nual Take Back the Night march grows in size and im­pact

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FRONT PAGE - SARAH LADIK

Fri­day’s Take Back the Night march in Moose Jaw – the city’s sec­ond – saw an in­crease in par­tic­i­pants over the pre­vi­ous year.

There was a time, how­ever, when or­ga­niz­ers wor­ried that they would be alone; just a few peo­ple led by a police car and fol­lowed by a fire truck.

“Some­times when you pre­pare for these events, you don’t know how they’re go­ing to go,” said Moose Jaw Pride ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Joe Wick­en­hauser. “You think maybe you’re the only one that’s been af­fected. I had that fear that it was just go­ing to be us and the police car.”

As it turned out, the march played out quite dif­fer­ently. About 20 peo­ple picked up signs and took to Main Street North, chant­ing about an end to gen­der-based vi­o­lence. The road was closed for a few blocks and they were es­corted by the Moose Jaw Police Ser­vice and the Moose Jaw Fire Depart­ment.

“It was re­ally touching to have peo­ple join us and walk down the street and take a stand against vi­o­lence,” Wick­en­hauser said.

Take Back the Night is a world­wide event, started in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. Orig­i­nally its mean­ing was quite lit­eral: a move­ment for women, by women, to make Lon­don a safer place for them when they stepped out­side their homes af­ter the sun went down.

Even though you may feel like you’re the only one walk­ing out there, you are not alone walk­ing out there. A lot of peo­ple have your back.

Lisa Miller, Ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor at Regina Sex­ual As­sault Cen­tre

Since then, it has evolved into a non­profit group that op­er­ates year-round, but also a cause that en­com­passes all forms of gen­der-based vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and acts against gen­der-di­verse peo­ple.

“We’ve come a long way,” said or­ga­nizer Alyssa Buck. “Now we rec­og­nize that vi­o­lence isn’t lim­ited to one group of peo­ple or one com­mu­nity; we rec­og­nize the LGBT com­mu­nity as well.”

She too ex­pressed grat­i­tude at the num­ber of peo­ple who joined the march, in­clud­ing a few work­ers from the Regina Sex­ual As­sault Cen­tre. Ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Lisa Miller said she sees the need for this kind of event in Moose Jaw all the time; res­i­dents of the Friendly City are of­ten clients at the cen­tre. While many are not ready to speak out — and it should be stressed that no one should ever feel forced to share their ex­pe­ri­ences — those who are do not find them­selves alone.

“Even though you may feel like you’re the only one walk­ing out there, you are not alone walk­ing out there,” she said. “A lot of peo­ple have your back.”

The de­mo­graph­ics of peo­ple sup­port­ing the marchers have also been chang­ing. In the orig­i­nal event, men were not al­lowed to walk with women. Now, Miller said, they have be­come an im­por­tant fac­tor in mak­ing change.

“We need men as al­lies and we need them to speak up,” she said. “They need to call out their bros, their friends, and say it’s not okay.”

Stud­ies point to the vast ma­jor­ity of sex­ual as­sault cases — per­pe­trated both by strangers and peo­ple who know the vic­tim — go­ing un­re­ported. While there have been a num­ber of high-pro­file cases both in Canada and the United States in re­cent years, that pub­lic­ity and its ram­i­fi­ca­tions have of­ten made it even more daunt­ing for peo­ple to speak out against their abusers.

“Some­times peo­ple ques­tion the value of an event like this; that there are only 20 peo­ple or what­ever,” said Wick­en­hauser. “But it’s im­por­tant to cre­ate that cer­e­mony and that en­vi­ron­ment where we can talk about what hap­pens, where we know we’re not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this alone. We get a lot of power when we come to­gether.”

MARLON HEC­TOR/TIMES-HER­ALD

About 20 peo­ple marched in Fri­day night’s Take Back The Night event from Cres­cent Park down Main Street North, led by or­ga­nizer Alyssa Buck.

MARLON HEC­TOR/TIMES-HER­ALD

Joe Wick­en­hauser and par­tic­i­pants at Fri­day night’s Take Back The Night march.

MARLON HEC­TOR/TIMES-HER­ALD

Scenes from Fri­day night’s Take Back The Night march from Cres­cent Park to Main Street and back.

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