Take Back the Night (TBTN) is a peaceful protest that takes place on streets all over the world. The 35th annual Winnipeg march will take place on Thursday, Sept. 19. The event is open to people of all ages and genders, and is based on reclaiming the streets where so many women are subject to harassment every year. There is an open invitation to the public to join the march in solidarity with women who have suffered domestic abuse, street harassment, and violence.
TBTN marches began in Belgium in 1976 under the moniker “Reclaim The Night,” and quickly spread to Rome and England. The first protest titled “Take Back The Night” was held in Philadelphia in 1975 after the gruesome murder of microbiologist Susan Alexander Speeth as she walked home alone at night. The march was originally exclusive to women (and remains so in some cities), but many—including the march that takes place in Winnipeg—now invite all genders to participate, as a means of showing that ending gender-based crimes requires the collaborative effort of everyone within a community.
According to Statistics Canada’s “Family violence in Canada: a statistical profile” (2010) there were over 102,500 police reported victims of intimate partner violence in 2010. “At the provincial level, Manitoba and Saskatchewan recorded the highest overall rates of intimate partner violence, including intimate partner homicides,” states the report. According to an earlier Statistics Canada report, less than 1 in 10 acts of sexual assault are reported to police. The math is staggering.
TBTN not only condemns violence against women, but also encourages women to reach out and seek help if they are being abused. Manitoba has the highest percentage of Aboriginal women in Canada, 75 Aboriginal women have disappeared within the last 20 years. Aboriginal women are reported to be three-and-a-half times more likely to be subject to physical violence, and are five times more likely to die from violence than non-Aboriginal women in Canada. Many Aboriginal people within the community have become skeptical of the RCMP’s efforts, and have resorted to grassroots initiatives, such as Facebook groups and participating in protests like TBTN.
Aboriginal women, along with millions of other women of colour all over the world, live in a society that objectifies, sexualizes, and disrespects their existence. TBTN also works to unite and demand resistance against violence of all marginalized people and, by doing so, create a safer space for all people to live in.
We live in a world where over half of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, and nearly all abusers will do no jail time. We deserve better. Speak out, encourage your family and friends to speak out, and help create a better world for our sisters, mothers, and daughters.
Winnipeg’s TBTN protest will begin Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the North End Bell Tower, 470 Selkirk Avenue. There will be speakers, supplies available to create signs, and attendees are invited to bring noisemakers. The march will begin at 7:00 p.m., will be about two kilometres, and will end at the U of M Inner City Campus, which is at 485 Selkirk Avenue. All protestors are invited to stay for refreshments, discussion, and celebration.