This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis and support phone line can be reached at 613-544-6424 / 1-877-544-6424. The Centre’s online chat feature can be reached here. The Journal uses “survivor” to refer to those who have experienced sexual assault. We acknowledge this term is not universal.
Take Back the Night is back in person at Queen’s.
Students marched as part of a movement against sexual violence on the evening of Oct.1 at Agnes Benidickson Field. Take Back the Night is a movement to end sexual violence in all forms and to support survivors, with the first march taking place in 1978 in San Francisco. This year’s march at Queen’s was organized by the AMS’s Walkhome service.
“The event is meant to empower survivors and bring people together to raise awareness about sexual violence,” said Beny Johal Pascal, head manager for Walkhome, in an interview with The Journal.
Pascal highlighted the importance of the event taking place during the same weekend as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Indigenous women are more likely to experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime compared to non-Indigenous women, according to the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics.
“It’s crucial to acknowledge at an event of this nature that sexual violence is a crime that disproportionately impacts minority groups, especially individuals who identify within Indigenous communities,” Pascal said at the event.
The event began with a video from Katie Koestner, the executive director of Take Back the Night. Koestner shared her story of surviving date rape, when a dinner date ended with her saying no and him not listening.
“Take Back the Night is all about that healing process. It’s not over in a night. It’s not over in an hour. It’s not over, really ever. It’s a lifetime journey once we’ve been harmed,” Koestner said.
Attendees shared their personal stories, supportive resources, and recited the Take Back the Night pledge. The pledge is a commitment to intervening in situations where violence may occur, and to prevent sexual violence from happening in the first place.
“Together, the people united will never be divided,” Koestner said. She recalled a chant, “Two, four, six, eight, no more date rape,” describing the power in the people’s words and voices.
The event closed with a march around campus. Marching in the dark, attendees looped around campus with signs and shows of support for survivors.
“It’s really important students are involved, especially at Queen’s, in a movement like this,” Pascal said. “I’m really hoping this can set up the groundwork for more collaboration between Queen’s students and the community in such an important cause.”
As part of keeping students safe in the city, Pascal and her team at Walkhome operate a confidential safe walk service which is designed to accompany patrons around Kingston between the hours of 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. during the week, and 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. over the weekend.
“We’re here to offer [students, faculty, and community members] a safe walk, whether that’s just wanting companionship on a walk home or just wanting someone to genuinely make sure they’re making it from point A to point B safely,” Pascal said.
Queen’s and Kingston have hosted Take Back the Night since 1980. Early demonstrations only included women and drew crowds of over 100 people. The march returned this year after a hiatus due to COVID-19.
—With files from Asbah Ahmad
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