Kingston women seek to take back the night

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Annual march protests sexual and physical violence against women, draws dozens of protestors

Kingstonians protest violence against women.
Kingstonians protest violence against women.
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After over 30 years of the annual Kingston Take Back the Night march, the event’s message remains the same.

Roughly 50 protesters marched through downtown Kingston on Thursday evening, beginning at Confederation Park, making as much noise as possible and shouting slogans such as “we want freedom, we want rights, we are taking back our nights”.

The march, which takes place all over the world, is a protest against sexual and physical violence against women. “Take back the night” is a reference to the fear that women feel when they are alone in public spaces.

One of the first marches was held in Philadelphia in 1975 following the murder of microbiologist Susan Alexander Speeth, while on her way home.

Many protestors, whether basing their decision to march on personal experience or as allies, spoke of rape culture as well as general inequality between men and women.

“Sexual violence still exists; rape still exists. It’s important for women to be able to walk in safety,” Karen, a protester who declined to give her last name, said.

Garrean Baga, an ally, said he lacked the knowledge of the extent to which sexual violence affects women until recently.

“Several of my friends have been sexually assaulted and upon finding out I was really shocked that it was so common,” he said.

Brenda Slomka, a Kingston mayoral candidate, was front and centre throughout the march.

“[The march] brings together people from the community,” she said.

“It shows the power of what it means when there is strength in numbers and what it means to be a collective that says that this issue that is systemic in our society — that we’re not going to tolerate it.”

Jennifer Byrd, a protester who was joined by her young son, expressed the importance of educating children about these issues.

“I love that we’re educating our children,” she said.

“I really believe that parents have a responsibility to teach their children how to treat people ­— including women.”

Daniel J. Beals, a representative for White Ribbon in Kingston, expressed the same sentiment.

“I try to make it clear to [my son] what I believe in, and the issues of equity,” he said.

“Women and everyone need and deserve safety. Those conversations are as good for me as they are for him, because they educate me as well.”

Members of Kingston’s “kink” community were also present. One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, touched on matters of rape where the lines — at least under the law — may be blurred.

“Consent is extremely important within the kink community,” she said.

“Instead of the slogan ‘no means no’, I prefer the slogan ‘only yes means yes’, because it’s a higher standard of consent. It means that men should seek enthusiastic consent from their partners rather than trying to get coercive consent from them.” Marguerite Dydyk, a part time volunteer at the Kingston Interval House, said this event is important to her because of her daughter, murdered in Prince Edward Island by a co-worker.

“I try to let women understand that ‘it can happen to you’,” she said.

“No one is exempted from murder and no one is exempted from violence.”

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