Kingston women ‘Take Back the Night’

Women of all ages marched through downtown Kingston for Take Back the Night.
Women of all ages marched through downtown Kingston for Take Back the Night.

Women in Kingston took over the streets Friday night with spirit and energy for the annual Take Back the Night event.

Those taking part in the women-only march rallied in Confederation Basin before marching up Queen Street to Clergy Street and back down Princess Street, blowing whistles and noisemakers and chanting cheers such as “hey mister, mister, get your hands off my sister” and “hey hey, ho ho, rape and violence have got to go.”

Former Canadian Idol contestant Elena Juatco, ArtSci ’07, emceed the pre-march rally at Confederation Basin, organized by the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (SACK). Juatco, who finished sixth in the 2004 competition, spoke to the crowd about her definition of a feminist.

“I was on Canadian Idol and I am a feminist,” she told the crowd. “If you love being a woman, you are a feminist.” In addition to speaking, Juatco performed “I Shall Be Released” by Bob Dylan. She said she chose to sing because of the power that music holds for her.

“For me music is something to uplift,” she said. “I am empowered when I sing [“I Shall Be Released”].”

Event organizer Caitlin Coull, a public education coordinator with SACK, said Juatco was chosen as emcee because she fit with the event’s message.

“We were looking for someone who upholds [the ideals] of Take Back the Night,” Coull said. “[Juatco] got our attention doing The Vagina Monologues [at Queen’s in 2003].” Ashley Kurtz, secretary and treasurer of the board at SACK, said she was at the rally to bring awareness to the issue.

“[Sexual assault and abuse are] so common,” she said. “[The rally] is a chance to draw awareness to it.

“[It’s] not a once-a-year issue, but this is our night.”

AMS Social Issues Commissioner Jennifer Holub also spoke to the crowd and performed the Tracy Chapman song “Behind the Walls.” Holub said she selected her song because it related to the march.

“That song is tuned to the theme of domestic violence, which is a big part of [Take Back the Night].”

Holub, a volunteer with SACK for the past two years, said while there is no official relationship between the University and Take Back the Night, there were many students and organizations from the University involved in the events.

In addition to Juatco and Holub, several other women spoke including local women’s rights activists Kristen Spring and Kim Allen. After the organized speeches, women were invited to come up to the microphone and share their experiences.

Kurtz spoke to the crowd about her experience with sexual assault. She said the attack happened three years ago when she first arrived in Kingston to begin the graduate program at Queen’s. She said her attacker gained access to her bedroom through a window in her basement apartment.

According to Statistics Canada, half of Canadian women (51%), have been a victim of a physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.

Coull said the power of the speakers was evident during the rally.

“There were several times a collective shiver went through the crowd,” she said.

Others discussed close calls with strangers on the street or sang songs with themes related to the event.

Coull said she thought the evening was a success.

“I’m thrilled,” she said. “It was a great representation of women, it was a great diversity ... Everyone was so enthusiastic.

“I’m proud to say my mom was leading the march,” she added. “I think it’s important to note that there were women of all ages [at the event].”

Holub said she was impressed by the crowd reaction to the march up Queen Street and down Princess Street.

“I felt ... the overwhelming support of random passersby,” she said. “Store owners were standing outside [their stores] clapping.

“You don’t know the stories behind the people.”

Coull said she is looking forward to making the event larger next year.

“Bigger and better, next year, onward and upward,” she said. “We could take over the street and continue this upward trend [of the event].”

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