Around 40 men and women came together in the city’s first Take Back the Night event to show that Delta won’t tolerate domestic violence and sexual abuse.
The Wednesday night event (May 30) was hosted by Deltassist to bring awareness to the fact that these crimes happen in all communities, to people of all genders and all sexual orientations.
“We all know there is more work to be done,” SFU professor Jen Marchbank said in her keynote speech that night. “And we have to do that work intersectionally, so we cross divides not create them.
“When we work together as front line workers, as survivors, as policy makers, as academics, as community members, as counsellors, we are effective in developing policies and services that respond to the needs of our community,” she continued. “Let’s keep empowering those facing violence, let’s keep empowering our communities, and let’s keep empowering ourselves.”
Three female survivors shared their stories in the lead up to the march. One woman, whose name is not being shared for privacy reasons, had spent 35 years married to her abuser.
She had immigrated to Canada from India to meet her husband as part of an arranged marriage. He abused her physically, emotionally and sexually, she said. He had kidnapped her kids once, and did not let her have free use to her money and assets.
“I had no self-esteem, no independence, even no right to speak for myself,” she said. “But I promised myself that once my kids are older I will leave. Now that they have their own careers, it was a good time for me to leave.”
Telling her story was difficult, she said, but important.
“It was actually emotional, at the same time it was empowering that people were listening to me,” she said after her speech. “It was like feeling vulnerable in front of so many people, but finally I could get it out of my system.
“Before I didn’t want to really share this with anybody, but now I’m okay to. It was my past so I have to move on.”
The theme of empowerment was shown throughout the evening. It was in Marchbank’s keynote, which looked at some of the successes Canada and the United Kingdom (where Marchbank started her career) for survivors of domestic violence. It was in the YouTube video shown, about how one in six men are affected by domestic violence. And it was in the lighting ceremony before the walk.
During that ceremony, Deltassist’s manager of counselling services Zoë Sehn handed out thin candles to the participants. Holding the candles, the group read in unison from a piece of paper: “We stand together refusing to be silent about violence and sexual assault. We shed light to demonstrate that we are not afraid of the dark, whatever the dark represents to each of us.”
After the ceremony they took to the streets, walking down Scott Road (and bringing honks from cars driving alongside them) and turning down 90 Avenue to make a loop past Delview and back up to the Deltassist office.
For Deltassist alternatives to violence counsellor Maren Schenk, bringing people together in this kind of event was an important first step.
“It’s brought some renewed energy to my work,” she said. “Just hearing some survivors’ stories, it validates the work that I do, knowing it makes a difference.”