Take Back the Night

    The annual Take Back the Night March was held on October 22 and was co-hosted by the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association (AWRCSASA), the StFX Student’s Union and Visible@X.

    ANTIGONISH: More than 150 women and their allies marched through StFX University recently to raise awareness against gender-based and sexual violence, and to support victims and survivors impacted by gender-based violence within their community.

    The annual Take Back the Night March was held on October 22 and was co-hosted by the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association (AWRCSASA), the StFX Student Union and Visible@X.

    “We are all too aware as something as simple as walking home at night is not safe for certain bodies,” StFX’s Student Union President Sarah Elliot said. “This rally and march is reclaiming the night and reclaiming of a space that is traditionally less inclusive and is associated with gender-based violence.”

    A socially-distanced rally, featuring speeches from both survivors and allies, occurred at Oland Stadium, which was followed by a march through campus. Participants were asked to bring a phone or a flashlight, to “shine a light on sexual violence” on campus and in the community.

    PHotos by Drake Lowthers
    Visible@X coordinator, Catherine Kennedy, is also a dual-sport student athlete on the StFX Women’s track and soccer teams.

    Catherine Kennedy, a Visible@X coordinator, who is also a dual-sport student athlete on the women’s track and soccer teams, said as someone who is very acquainted with Oland Stadium, she kind of considers it almost comforting, like a home base.

    “But as an athlete, I have to acknowledge spaces like this are often breeding grounds for the kind of hegemonic masculinity that informs a lot of sexual violenc,e particular on university campuses,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s really powerful that we’re able to gather here, on the turf, at centre-field, under the lights, it’s really symbolic.”

    In the context of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to be raising awareness about gender-based and sexual violence and the supports available.

    Wyanne Sandler, the executive director of AWRCSASA, noted that during the pandemic in Canada, it’s estimated that calls to domestic violence crisis lines increased somewhere around 20 to 30 per cent, and up to 400 per cent in some areas – while other regions, were eerily quiet.

    Those working with survivors knew that this meant not that violence wasn’t happening, but that those experiencing it weren’t able to reach out for help.

    “We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased some of the vulnerabilities and risk factors for violence,” Sandler said. “We felt that it was critically important to let survivors know that you are not alone, and that there are still supports and services available to you, even in the midst of this pandemic.”

    Emma Kuzmyk said those who are able must do the work in creating a community; a place of safety, where healing and being heard is not something that is reserved for the lucky.

    Set to graduate from StFX this year, Emma Kuzmyk, who has worked as a program assistant with the AWRCSASA has become quite comfortable identifying as a survivor.

    “I think about that word though, and what it really means – you have survived something,” Kuzmyk said. “And to survive something really, means there was a possibility that you wouldn’t.”

    She said there are certain places she sits now because she is a survivor; sometimes it’s on committees, but sometimes it’s in an armchair across from her therapist.

    “And in both of these places, I think of how lucky I am,” Kuzmyk said. “Not everybody gets to heal, and not everybody gets to sit in these places.”

    She indicated those who are able must do the work in creating a community; a place of safety, where healing and being heard is not something that is reserved for the lucky.

    “There are voices missing from our march today, there are faces who’re not in the crowd and we cannot forget about them,” Kuzmyk added. “Because when we use the word survive, it’s because not everybody does – so for all of the voices who could not join us today, try to raise yours just a little bit louder.”

    A poster making session was hosted by the StFX Women and Gender Studies Society before the rally that saw over 150 people march through the university’s campus on October 22 to raise awareness against gender-based and sexual violence.