The streets of Bay Roberts were lively with the voices of women with a message this past Tuesday night, Sept. 18.
For the past four years, Communities Against Violence has been gathering with similar organizations, as well as members of the public to hold Take Back the Night – a march that aims to raise awareness for domestic violence, and to give a voice to women who may be in a violent relationship or household.
Starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday night, dozens of women and children gathered at the Bay Roberts Town Hall. They marched up and down some nearby roads, holding signs portraying important messages and shouting practiced chants that spread a message about anti-violence, and that “no means no.”
Take Back the Night is a part of Communities Against Violence’s Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
Stacy Harris is a regional coordinator for Communities Against Violence and sat at the forefront of the recent Take Back the Night event, as she has the previous three years. She said nights like this serve a multitude of purposes, like switching the blame from victims to their abusers, as well as teaching girls from a young age that domestic violence is not something they should have to deal with as they grow up.
“(Take Back the Night) is all about taking the expectation off of women to keep themselves safe – it should be everyone’s duty to keep everyone safe, no matter what,” Harris said of the walk. “There’s this idea that women should always be ready to protect themselves – go out in pairs, dress a certain way, and all these other ideas — when at the end of the day, it shouldn’t just be women taking care of women, it should be everyone.”
Harris went on to explain that Take Back the Night also serves as a means of fighting back against opinions that blame or shame victims in domestic violence situations.
She told The Compass “she was wearing too short of a dress”, “she was too drunk” and “she was asking for it” are still phrases she hears all too often. It’s those types of mentalities that she, alongside everyone at the march, want to speak out against.
“Those thought trains still exist in our communities, and Take Back the Night is about ending that,” she said.
Communities Against Violence is a not-for-profit organization that receives funding through the provincial government’s Violence Prevention initiative.
The organization focuses on raising awareness for violence as a whole and takes part in a number of presentations across the Avalon west region that try and educate students from a young age about the long-lasting effects and repercussions of domestic violence. The overall goal is reducing the number of violent situations in the province.
“I get so excited when I see these little, little kids coming to our events. I’m sure they don’t really fully understand exactly all of the messages that are being sent out,” Harris said of the organization’s goals, and the importance of speaking about such topics to younger demographics. “But, we need to start educating the kids as early as possible.
“They need to know that respect needs to be as much of an everyday thing as saying please and thank you. Respect for one another needs to be a part of our day-to-day manners — something that’s fostered in our communities from a young age.
She also noted, “These kids need to know that it’s OK to say no and understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
“Teaching them the basics of consent, and what’s okay and what isn’t okay – that’s where it begins, and as they grow older, they’ll slowly start to learn more about the more serious topics that we talk about.”
Over the years, Harris says these types of initiatives have proven to be effective, with an apparent change in people’s attitudes toward violence. Through the help of events such as Take Back the Night, as well as major social media movements such as #MeToo, progress is being made. The number of violence cases seen in not only this province, but the entire country, are slowly starting to decrease.
“Even in Hollywood, we’re seeing progress happening,” she said. “We’re seeing people finally being held accountable for their actions, and that says a lot about where we’re going as a society.
“Things are moving forward, I think, in that regard. We’re seeing a big shift, and although it’s a slow shift, I think people are learning more and more, and that’s the main thing.”