July 12th, 2024

City residents ‘Take Back the Night’

By Lethbridge Herald on October 24, 2023.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Lethbridge and district YWCA staff and members of the community hold signs while shouting and walking during the YWCA's Take Back the Night walk along 6 Avenue South Friday.

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

Members of the community gathered outside City Hall Friday night to join the YWCA’s annual event Take Back the Night Walk during their Week Without Violence. 

YWCA Lethbridge and district CEO Jill Young spoke during the event prior to the walk and said Take Back the Night is an international event in which people walk in solidarity to take action against those who have committed sexual violence. 

“The first Canadian Take Back the Night took place in Vancouver in 1978. Women walked to speak out against sexual violence, to not allow gender-based violence to be part of our world, and here we are 45 years later still raising our voices to be heard,” said Young. 

She said women, girls and gender-diverse people are at higher risk, especially those who face additional barriers or discrimination which includes the homeless, Indigenous people, and those with disabilities. 

“In 1977 only one year prior to the first Take Back the Night, the Canadian Human Rights Act passed, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and ensuring equal pay for work of equal value,” said Young. 

She added that 1983 saw the Human Rights Act amended to ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, family, or marital status and 1987 saw the Supreme Court of Canada make the decision that employers are responsible for maintaining a harassment-free workplace. 

“Not until 1988 was abortion and the right for a woman to choose decriminalized, and yet in 1989, 14 young women at a Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal were killed, with another 10 women and four males injured because their killer accused them of being feminist.

“This is why we are here, we want to change the story,” said Young. 

She said gender-based violence is not something that is inevitable, it is not something that people simply need to accept,.

Young said an effort needs to be made to start changing the  narrative about sexual violence. 

“How many of you in the crowd today, and as I look around, have been told ‘don’t wear that, it’s too short, it’s too revealing, it’s too something, don’t walk by yourself, that’s just inviting trouble, avoid those dark corners, make sure you have a way to defend yourself, be aware, don’t act like a victim?’ We need to stop, and we need to stop blaming the victims,” said Young. 

She said she was happy to see how how many people decided to take a stand against gender-based violence, and to see representatives from local organizations that support victims and survivors of violence. 

Young said that according to a 2019 survey, nearly half of all adult Albertans have experienced some type of sexual violence in their lifetime –  that is almost two million people. 

“At YWCA Harbour House, our 24-hour women shelter, we supported 422 women and children last year and out of those 422 individuals, there were 405 sexual assaults disclosed to shelter staff,” said Young. 

She added their 24-hour on-call sexual assault advocates, Amethyst Project, is seeing a huge increase in the amount of reporting of sexual assaults year over year. 

“A lot has changed in 45 years, we’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a lot further to go. So, I ask again, why are we here? We’re here to show a commitment to end gender-based violence, to believe and to have hope that we can have a safe community for everybody regardless of age, religion, sexual orientation or gender, to believe that we are stronger together,” said Young. 

After this, those in attendance initiated the Take Back the Night walk from City Hall to the YWCA building with some notable members of the community taking part including Mayor Blaine Hyggen, Lethbridge Police Service chief Shahin Mehdizedeh, councillor Belinda Crowson, The Watch manager Shane Kisinger and Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce CEO Cyndi Bester. 

Close to 80 members of the community participated in the Take Back the Night walk, which concluded with hot chocolate and baked goods at the YWCA building, where those who took part were able to sign this year’s walk banner. 

Young spoke to the Herald after the walk and said they had support from the community through honking and waving while driving by. 

“The walk itself is something that is so empowering for everybody that’s physically doing it, to be out in the community, to walk as a group and really to shout our voices and to share our message,” said Young. 

She said the walk takes place during the Week Without Violence as this is the time where the different YWCAs share the message of ending gender-based violence across the globe. 

“As we go through the different atrocities that are happening all across the globe right now, it is something that is at the front of all of our minds. Even locally there are so many different local events that just really remind us that gender-based violence is not at an end, but we do have the ability to know that it’s not inevitable, that we can have the power to stop it and that’s what we want to do,” said Young.

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