SACHA’s Take Back The Night 2017


 

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By: Noel Valade

Content Warning: This article contains mention of Sexual Assault. If you need support, please reach out to one of these resources:

  • SACHA (Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton) 24 Hour Support Line: (905) 525-4573
  • McMaster University’s Sexual Response Protocol Website includes information about Meaghan Ross, Sexual Violence Response Coordinator: rossm4@mcmaster.ca (905) 525-9140 Ext. 20909.
  • MSU Women & Gender Equity Network (WGEN) Peer Support:

          Drop in Hours: Mon-Thurs 9:30am-4:30pm, Fridays 10:30am-3:30pm or by appointment                          (wgen@msu.mcmaster.ca)

  • MSU Peer Support Line: (905) 525-9140 ext. 28888 or online at msumcmaster.ca/psl

          Hours of Operation: Mon-Sun 7pm-1am

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On September 28, 2017, hundreds of women identified and gender-non-conforming folks marched the streets of downtown Hamilton in solidarity to address several topics regarding sexual harassment. Take Back The Night (TBTN) is an Annual Event hosted by SACHA (The Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton) that supports survivors and works towards ending Sexual Assault & Sexual Violence in the greater Hamilton Community.

TBTN is a powerful event that began in 1981 to allow survivors and their supporters to come together to reclaim women’s rights for safety and demand an end to violence.  The name for this event is driven by its mission to create safer streets for women and gender-nonconforming folks, and challenge victim-blaming culture. It calls for women to Take Back the Night – a time of day that is seen to be unsafe for women, where women are not allowed to wear or go where they please because it can result in them being sexually harassed.

By blocking off and taking up streets of downtown Hamilton, women and gender non-conforming folks stand united and have the freedom to march and challenge patriarchy, victim-blaming, rape culture and hold perpetrators of sexual rape, violence and harassment accountable for their actions. The experience is enhanced through powerful handmade signs and chants.

Fellow Pop the Bubble contributor, Sabrina, attended TBTN and here is why she Takes Back the Night:

Sabrina on Take Back the Night

“Take Back the Night is always such an empowering evening for me. Walking and taking up the streets of downtown Hamilton with our unique signs and cheers is a moment for survivors, allies, and passionate women from all walks of life to come together in solidarity.

Personally, it felt amazing to walk through Hess Village as female youth and McMaster University student. Far too many of my classmates are victims of sexual violence and harassment due to the degrading club culture practiced. To make matters worse, these classmates among many other women and marginalized folks are being blamed for what they were wearing, for being out at night, or for being intoxicated. It baffles me that the perpetrators who were intoxicated are often excused for their behaviour and violence, but victims are blamed?

I march because I want to live in a world where I don’t have to ask myself if my outfit will provoke someone to commit a crime or where I have to make sure I have a few larger male friends with me around to feel safe. As a petite female student who volunteers across Hamilton, I don’t want to commute home in fear with my hands holding my keys in pocket like a weapon ready to use every single day. It aches me as I walk into my placements at a women safe place and wonder how many of these women are hassled on the daily. And lastly, I am tired of being disrespectfully catcalled at all hours of the day.

I Take Back the Night because everyone deserves to walk the streets with confidence, without fear or catcalls. Let’s work together to end sexual violence, oppressions, and ridiculous stigmas.”

What does McMaster do to help end sexual assault and violence, and support survivors on campus?

On-campus, the Sexual Violence Response Protocol was a policy to create a protocol for members of the McMaster Community who have experienced sexual assault. In addition to this, every Welcome Week, SACHA in collaboration with the Equity & Inclusion Office and Welcome Week’s partners (like the Student Success Centre), trains all Welcome Week Reps on how to support survivors, as well as work to create a culture of consent during Welcome Week through the #Consent Campaign. Last but not least, the Women & Gender Equity Network, a Service of the McMaster Student Union, was created two years ago to support women, trans & non-binary students, and all survivors of sexual assault. The McMaster Students Union also trains all their peer support volunteers from MSU Services such as the Women & Gender Equity Network (WGEN), The Queer Students Community Centre (QSCC), Maccess and the Student Health Education Centre (SHEC) on how to support survivors in peer support settings.

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One thing I love about SACHA is that it is all about creating an environment of support and safe spaces. As a student involved with the Equity and Inclusion Office and who has done a lot of volunteering and activism in this area, I’ve come to learn a lot about what we can do to be active and supportive allies to survivors.

For those of you looking to get involved, here are some things I’ve learned.

(Keep in mind, I’m not an expert! If you’re really serious about taking action, I recommend also getting in touch with SACHA, the Equity and Inclusion Office, Volunteer Connections through the Student Success Centre, clubs on-campus, and of course, folks involved with McMaster’s Sexual Response Protocol).

Incorporate asking for consent in all aspects of your life (Work, school, and social)

Asking for consent is the right thing to do; but it also takes practice. A great way to practice consent is to do so in all areas of your life, whether it’s for a hug or simply to make a cup of tea. Asking for consent in all areas of your life means that you’re respecting the other person in question, as well as their bodily autonomy and decision. This video is a great example; “it’s simple as tea!”

Challenge rape culture

In order to challenge rape culture, we need to define what ways rape culture in ingrained in our everyday lives. In rape culture, people are surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape (SACHA). I’ve learned that knowledge and awareness is the first step.

Challenging this culture also means starting with ourselves – whether it’s jokes on television or imagery in film or even lyrics in the songs on the radio, violence (and especially, violence against women) is seeped into our popular culture. Being mindful of this and making the decision to say it’s not okay is important; it’s one way of saying we won’t accept things just because “that’s the way they are.”

Be An Ally

Survivors of sexual assault often feel alienated and isolated – it can be difficult to reach out for support for many reasons. Being an ally means staying informed and listening if someone comes forward, without judgment.

If you’re ever in this situation, remember, McMaster University has the Sexual Response Protocol; SACHA is also an invaluable resource in Hamilton. I’ve been lucky enough to do some training with SACHA in the past. Here are some phrases they told us to remember if we receive a disclosure:

  • It’s not your fault
  • I believe you
  • How can I support you?
  • Thank you for sharing this with me

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Thanks for reading! Make sure to take care of yourself fellow Marauders, and reach out if you need support in any capacity, whether that is if you’re struggling with the topics discussed in this article, or if you need support on how to advocate for this cause/how to support a survivor.

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