25th Take Back the Night March Held
Prince George, B.C. – Women and children of Prince George gathered at CNC Friday night to demand an end to the violence perpetrated against them by men.
The 25th Take Back the Night march was put together by a committee representing several organizations in the city to honour the memory of women who have not survived violence, celebrate those who have survived and to say that the violence cannot continue.
The S.O.S. Society, Elizabeth Fry, Phoenix Transition House, AWAC, Women North Network, CNC, UNBC, Northern Women’s Centre and the Native Friendship centre were all involved in bringing together women to speak to the issue and demand an end to it.
Women North Network member Dawn Hemingway said the issue gathered women together from many different walks of life, “each of us concerned about the collective wellness of women and children in our community to make every effort to end violence against women and children and to make a violence-free society.”
She said that “every year in B.C. there are 60,000 physical and sexual assaults against women, almost all of them committed by men. Over 60 percent of British Columbians personally know at least one woman who has been physically or sexually assaulted, and only 12 percent of sexual assaults against women are reported to police. One in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.”
And the violence isn’t just against younger women and girls, but elderly women as well. Hemingway says “the violence is invisible and is categorized only as “elder abuse”. Northern BC has the fastest-growing elder population in the province and ending violence against older women is of critical importance. That violence must not remain hidden.”
There was also a call on governments at every level to do something about the situation of violence against women to take concrete steps to support women experiencing violence, because “words are not enough.”
Mayor Lyn Hall said “not long ago I had the opportunity to participate in the start of the Red Dress campaign. That in itself sends a message to our community that people are vigilant, people are working to get the message out about missing and murdered women. That Red Dress campaign is growing in numbers in only its second year this year.”
Hall says “we have women and children who are camping out throughout our community and in their vehicles because they don’t have a place to go We cannot turn a blind eye to that. We need to work diligently with our partners in the community to try to ensure we can at least make a significant difference in the lives of those folks. It is a very difficult and tough job but I’m really quite proud of what we’ve been able to do so far as a city, particularly given the fact that we’ve got a great partnership with many organizations that are helping.”
“It is an important evening but it goes beyond tonight. You can’t just show up tonight, you’ve got to think about it tomorrow and continually throughout the year, and whatever piece you think you can play is so important.”
Brenda Wilson, whose 16-year-old sister Ramona went missing on Highway 16 in 1994, said her disappearance was tragic “but it really brought awareness to what we going on along Highway 16. That there were many murders and many of our young women were missing” from the highway. “And some of these women were never, ever talked about, and just after 23 years now those names are starting to come out.. If we had known that was happening back then some of our daughters and sisters could still be here.”
“That’s why we’ve given our whole life to this, to advocate so that many of our communities can be safe along Highway 16. We don’t want to lose any more of our family members, any more loved ones.”
Dr. Gary Wilson, a representative of UNBC’s Steering Committee on Sexual Violence, recalled the first such March that he attended as a young student in Ottawa almost 30 years ago and said “the march’s guiding message, to end all forms of violence against women, is unfortunately as relevant now as it was when that first march was organized.”
He said faculty, staff and students at UNBC are actively involved in addressing sexual violence on the university’s campuses across the north. He says a policy on sexual violence which was adopted in May of 2016 responded to the issue on campuses and sought to work towards the prevention of sexual violence on campus.
Dr. Wilson says “it’s often the most vulnerable in our society who are the victims of sexual violence and I’m sure that many of you are well aware that there’s much to be done to end gender violence. I’m aware that the Take Back the Night march is a women’s and children’s march only, but on a personal level I would like to say how crucial it is that men speak out and make violence against women our issue, too.”