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Take Back the Night Vancouver 2004

By Terry Picard
November 2004
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Over one thousand defiant women took to the streets on Saturday evening September 25. Chanting and singing they blocked traffic at the intersection of Kingsway and Main street. Bouncers at the strip club on that corner looked on nervously, expecting that perhaps the women would storm the club.

Their nervousness was well founded. With one thousand united women, anything could happen. The women were conducting Take Back the Night, a direct action to take over city streets calling for freedom from rape, freedom from prostitution and livable welfare on demand.

Sherry Lewis of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) a speaker at the rally explained the importance of livable welfare on demand. She pointed out that aboriginal “women face the harshest of poverty, aboriginal women are at the bottom of every social and economic indicator.” In the darkness of the park, standing on a bench to address the one thousand women, Sherry explained that “many native women have been left with no other choices than to participate in the sex trade. That’s the only option that’s available, and that has to stop!” The noisy crowd agreed with the NWAC speaker – women deserve better options. Women were loud in their support of Sherry’s statement that liveable welfare on demand would go a great distance to address the enforced poverty of aboriginal women and children.

“Once again we demand that the perpetrators of violence against women, from rapists to pornographers to johns to batterers be held responsible for their actions and be made to change.” Said Carmen Daly a collective member Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. Carmen is an immigrant from Honduras. As a young woman of 14 years, she worked in the American owned factories making products for the North American market. Speaking in English and Spanish Carmen made connections between sexist violence and globalization noting, “Now the situation has become worse for young women who are forced because of poverty to work in the maquiladoras to make products for rich Western countries.” She explained that the American factories in Honduras now force women workers to take birth control as condition of working in the factories.

Samantha Kearney, a collective member of Vancouver Rape Relief and Womens Shelter said “It’s great that so many women seized this experience, women’s freedom is restricted by the threat of men’s violence. Take Back the Night gave women a chance to taste what freedom from rape might feel like.” Samantha notes it is particularly important that the march was women-only. Men who wanted to support the marchers were asked to provide childcare, cook dinners provide cars and reflect on concrete actions they could do on other days to promote women’s freedom from violence.

One in four women will be raped in her lifetime and one in eight girls will be sexually assaulted before the age of eighteen. Violence against women affects women across race and class, but racism and class divisions means that some women are made more vulnerable than others. Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter organizes the Take Back the Night actions, but the women’s group also operates a 24 hour rape crisis line and a shelter for battered women. All services are free and fully confidential. Women interested in volunteering or otherwise supporting the work of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter are invited to call 604-872-8212.

This article was published in Kahtou: The Voice of B.C.’s First Nations

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"We wanted to take back a space off limits to women...instead of telling women they should stay away in order to be safe, we wanted women to be here and be safe.”

September 2005
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