'We matter': Take Back the Night march returns to Kitchener with in-person event
The Take Back the Night march returned to an in person event in downtown Kitchener on Thursday, to bring attention to and call for action against sexual and gender-based violence.
Participants walked through downtown Kitchener and Victoria Park, chanting and holding signs.
A maximum of 100 people were allowed to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions. For those who could not make it, the event was live-streamed on the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region's Facebook page.
Organizers said instances of sexual violence have been increasing in the region since the start of the pandemic. According to the Centre, 14 women experience some form of sexual assault in Waterloo Region every day.
“Ever since the Me Too movement we’ve had a dramatic increase in demand and it’s just been going up and up since the pandemic,” Sarah Wiley, a Violence Prevention Educator at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, said.
Wiley says there are 140 people on the centres waitlist looking for supports.
“People are stuck at home with abusers, they’re cut off from resources and support. They’re online more, so we’ve seen increases in online exploitation and online harassment,” Wiley said.
One group showing support for the event on Friday was Shelter Movers, a new service to the region that provides free moving and storage services to women and their children fleeing abusive situations. Nationwide, its chapters have seen about a 30 per cent increase in clients.
“Kitchener Waterloo is one of the most unsafe places for women in the country and there is a need for it. Our goal is to do six to seven moves a month. In August, we did 12,” said Courtney Waterfall, Chapter Director for Shelter Movers Waterloo Region.
The event started back in the 1970s in England, after restrictions were placed on women and children to try and end a series of sexual assaults. Women and children were not allowed on the street after 10 p.m., unless accompanied by a man. As a result, women marched as a way to reclaim their right to walk the streets without fear.
Those who marched on Thursday said they wanted to support survivors nationwide.
“To show solidarity towards everything that has happened across Canada, across the world,” Jacklyn Yee, a march participant said. “We are each our own individual and we matter. And for you to see us matter, not just as names on screens, on numbers and statistics. To see us, that matters,”
Yee said more funding is needed to help.
“Putting the money, putting the work, putting the time into the people that are trying to make things safe, make things a community, make things happen,”she said.
According to Wiley, anyone wanting to support similar work in the region can always make a donation to the centre.