Night is repossessed
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
As the sun went down over Doidge Park last night and women got ready to "Take Back The Night", men inched onto the sidelines and let the group stand on their own.
Before the rally moved towards Victoria Park, guest speakers were asked to say a few words, including Tom Murphy, a board of directors member for Changing Ways, a men's help organization.
He began by saying the event was symbolic of something men get do all the time without fear and for this reason women needed to walk alone last night.
"This is not about excluding men or making them stand on the sidelines but rather about the empowerment of women," he said.
This theme continued when Megan Walker, executive director of the Battered Womens' Advocacy Centre, spoke. "Marching in the absence of men allows us to have a voice. Why do we always have to defend our actions against men?"
Walker focused on the issue of violence and everyone's part in putting an end to it.
The emphasis on the role of men in this year's rally may have been due to a politican who condemned the protest last year because men have not been asked to march, said Sarah Demelo, a network core member of the Womens' Issues Network at Western.
"We are trying to get the message out that we don't need men," she said, adding WIN has been actively advertising the rally to all those who came to their club booth this week.
Bjarne Hansen, an electrical engineer at Robarts Research Institute, whose wife was participating in the event, said he respected the wishes of those who want men to walk alongside because there are other ways to take an active role in this issue.
Symbolism could also be found in a change of parade route which had marchers beginning at Doidge Park rather than Victoria Park as in the past, said Laura Kovacic, a member of Women for Action, Accountability and Against Violence Everywhere (WAAAVE).
"We wanted to show that violence is not just a downtown issue," she said.
WAAAVE have been organizers of the event for over eight years which began casually but became more formal after the Montreal Massacre in 1989, which Kovacic said magnified the issue of violence against women.
Radio Western dedicated over two hours to the protest last night in a program which included special guest speakers, poetry readings and an open discussion of violence against women with parts of the rally between events.
"This is very serious and CHRW is a good forum to discuss issues like violence against women," said Tom Everett, program director at the station.