Taking back the night

Speakers discuss sexual violence towards Aboriginal women and the meaning of consent

Protestors at Take Back the Night hold up signs
Take Back the Night is an annual march protesting sexual violence.

“Consent is sexy” was one of the many messages on signs held up on Thursday night at the annual Take Back the Night rally.

Approximately 70 people marched and rallied from Confederation Park down Princess Street in protest of sexual violence.

 “It’s not something we should have to fight for. Not every woman has been sexually assaulted, but every woman has been taught to fear being sexually assaulted,” said Nancy Brar, event organizer and Queen’s Law student, in her opening remarks.

Organized by The Sexual Assault Centre in Kingston, the annual event featured a number of speakers, including the Sisters in Spirit — a campaign aiming to raise awareness of violence against Aboriginal women — and Eleanor Hands, a mother of an Aboriginal woman who was assaulted and murdered along with a number of victims.

“I’m here tonight to ask you to remember my daughter Nicole and all other murdered women,” Hands said to the crowd.

“Will finding out who killed my daughter make it make it any easier? I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.”

As the crowd marched down Princess St., they used noisemakers to make sure they were heard. They held signs that read: “Not asking for it”, “My short skirt is not an invitation to rape” and “I fear going out at night too.”

Take Back the Night marches took place nationwide this week in various cities, including Hamilton, Niagara Falls and London.

A Queen’s student who experienced sexual assault also spoke to The Journal. She requested to remain anonymous.

 “I was sexually assaulted two summers ago and it’s still impacting my day to day well being,” she said.

“It’s nice to be in a non-judgmental community surrounded by the support of friends. Everyone here believes in the same thing.”

This year’s annual event is timely. Last month, a student at New Hampshire’s St. Paul’s prep school was found not guilty of rape after a lengthy trial.

At the trial, a 15-year-old female student claimed she had been raped by an 18-year-old fellow student at the school’s Senior Salute event.

The jury in the case found the accused student not guilty of rape, as they found the 15-year-old girl’s claim to have said “no” to be too ambiguous.

The overall message from participants was that consent is more than the absence of a no, but rather the necessity of a yes.

“People aren’t taught not to rape, they’re taught not to be raped,” Nancy Brar, one of the event organizers, said.

She said the event is about acknowledging that sexual violence still occurs and that it hasn’t gone away.

“It’s still prevalent to the extent that victim blaming still occurs. It’s not fair to deny women’s basic human rights, to deny them to move freely without fear of harassment or sexual assault.”

Brar, JD ’16, added that when consent isn’t given, it’s “very clear”.

“If you’re in a situation and it’s ambiguous whether or not someone wants to have sexual contact with you, refrain from having sexual contact with that person.”

The event brought out victims of sexual violence, supporters of women’s rights and various community groups, including a biker group for abused children.

“We’re not just taking back tonight. We’re taking back every night,” Brar said.

 

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