Women have always been afraid to walk alone at night. Young girls are routinely cautioned to walk with a friend, to avoid going out in the dark, to shun certain parts of town and to stay away from strangers. Not every woman has been sexually assaulted, but every woman has been taught to fear the possibility of assault. One in four North American women is sexually assaulted in their lifetime. For vulnerable women—disabled women or Indigenous women, for example—that number climbs to 83 per cent.
Starting as a grassroots, feminist movement, “Take Back the Night” has become, worldwide, the one night of the year when women walk to protest sexualized violence against women. Women in every community attend events and walk in solidarity with their sisters to reclaim their city streets after dark.
It began in 1877 when women in London, England, took to the streets to protest the violence and the fear they experienced in their communities. In 1976, women attending the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in Belgium walked with lit candles through the nighttime streets to express publicly their anger at the worldwide rise of sexual violence, and the victim blaming that often follows those violent incidents.
In Canada, Take Back the Night is a public protest organized by women, for women. It is a celebration of women’s solidarity aiming to empower women to confront their fears. What could be more powerful than a group of sisters, reclaiming their city streets, chanting and singing, without fear, and more importantly, without men to protect them? The march is a chance to proclaim that women will not take responsibility for sexual harassment, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, incest and battering; to remind perpetrators that women will not be afraid; to remember sisters who have been victims and to stand with those who’ve survived.
Take Back the Night marches, candlelight vigils and other events take place across Ontario throughout September. For more information, check TBTN Facebook pages and women’s organizations websites.