Lisa Clarke of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre told participants in this year's Take Back the Night march that 80 per cent of those assaulted know the assailants. Girls and women between the ages of 15 and 24 are the most likely victims of sexual assault. JENN WATT Staff

Take back the night

By Jenn Watt

Published: Sept. 19 2017

For the past two years I’ve attended Haliburton’s Take Back the Night rally and walk to demonstrate against sexual harassment and assault. Both times turnout has been pretty dismal.

Haliburton’s not a village that has a lot of political action happening – at least not in the form of rallies and protests – but it is a place filled with passionate caring people. So why do so few attend?

I can only assume Take Back the Night is an unknown or misunderstood entity to most people. Perhaps people don’t believe sexual assault and harassment are problems here.

However its message is critically important particularly to rural places like Haliburton.

As was detailed in an article in the Echo last week Take Back the Night is run by the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre which has partnered with Fleming College to put on four simultaneous events in each of the centres KSAC covers (and Fleming has campuses): Cobourg Haliburton Peterborough and Lindsay.

Take Back the Night events are demonstrations against violence with a particular emphasis on violence against women. These marches take place around the world and have been organized since the 1970s following the murder of a young microbiologist in Philadelphia. In the early days of the event marches were women-only as a way to come together and demonstrate collective power.

However in recent years Take Back the Night has expanded to include everyone who wants to stop violence and sexual assault in their community.

Why this is particularly important to a place like Haliburton is that we’re small and intimate. People know their neighbours and their neighbours’ family members and their neighbours’ teachers and those teachers’ parents and those teachers’ parents’ dogs’ names … you get the picture. As such when an assault happens in a close-knit community it can seem harder to seek help.

Shame and fear can keep women from coming forward especially when they know everyone knows everyone else.

Will she be supported? Will the community be behind her?

KSAC doesn’t have an office in Haliburton. There is no service with a physical presence in this county geared specifically to helping those who have been sexually assaulted or harassed.

There is no easy way to discern whether a support system would exist for someone who has been assaulted.

That’s where this rally comes in. For one night a group comes together to say we care. We believe you. We support you. We will fight for you.

That is a powerful thing. But only if we turn out for it.

Take Back the Night is this Thursday Sept. 21 starting at 7 p.m. at the HHSS athletic field. There will be speeches and then a candlelight walk through the park and into the downtown and back again.