Nearly 100 women “changed the headlines” at the 28th annual Take Back the Night march in downtown Fredericton on Friday.
The event, hosted by the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, is intended to change the media’s perception of sexual violence, said program coordinator Jenn Gorham.
“This is an opportunity for us to engage the community in a way that we might not normally have,” she said. “It definitely brings out different pockets of people who might not be exposed or aware of us as an organization or aware that this work is being done or that it’s still relevant. So it’s really important in that capacity to get that awareness in the community.”
Gorham said FSACC has focused largely on including youth in this year’s event.
“We really want to start working with youth at a younger age because that’s where we’re really going to affect change,” Gorham said.
The march, which the centre has held since 1985, is a way to let Fredericton know that FSACC is available as a resource for sexual assault victims, said Gorham.
“This has typically been seen as more of a women’s issue, but it’s a community issue, and until we get the entire community involved, we’re never going to fully address this,” Gorham said.
Gorham says it seems easy to get disheartened or frustrated to see the continued necessity of holding the march.
“But we’ve seen change,” she said. “We’ve seen change for women over the past 100 to 200 years and change for women over the past 50 years. Change takes time, and you have to be patient, so I think it would be easy to get frustrated, but I would just be hopeful.”
The men in attendance were asked to stay behind to show their solidarity in other ways. They were engaged in a workshop about redefining masculinity, which was led by Nick Dean, a long-time activist.
Dean said activism is crucial to addressing sexual violence.
“You have to get out there to get the topics known and get people thinking about them,” he said. “If topics that are so taboo like sexual violence are kept behind closed doors, we’re never going to be able to deal with the issue.”
Dean was impressed by the participation of the community in this event.
“The turnout is an amazing representation of how these kinds of events can really impact people.”
Courtney Babineau, a second-year STU student, participated in the march to stress the importance of consent in relationships.
“Too many people don’t understand that no means no and yes means yes,” she said. “It just needs to be more clear.
“It raises awareness and says there are issues out there to solve. We might think they’re solved and being solved, but they’re not necessarily solved.”