Women and their allies marched to Take Back the Night in Charlottetown Thursday, and help deliver the message to survivors of sexualized violence that they are not alone.
March organizer Rachel Adams said because P.E.I. is a small place, people may believe sexual assault is not a problem, but the statistics say otherwise. The number of reports of level-one sexual assaults on P.E.I. more than doubled from 2014 to 2019.
"Even though this is a small place, this is still a prevalent issue here," said Adams.
As a movement, Take Back the Night dates back to the 1960s, and marches are held in cities and small towns all over the world.
The march serves two purposes. It raises awareness of the problem — the fact that women, as well as LGBTQ folk, are not as safe as men when out at night — and it helps people realize they are not alone when trying to recover from a sexual assault.
"As a survivor myself, I found all the work leading up to this to be really helpful to see that there are other people in my shoes," said Adams.
"The stats tell us that one in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and that number is much higher, as I mentioned, for non-binary, BIPOC, LGBTQ folks."
Shame and embarrassment
That second part is especially important, says Rachael Crowder, executive director of the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre.
One of the terrible impacts of sexualized violence, she said, is the isolation it can cause. When victims aren't believed, they can withdraw into themselves.
"Sometimes they begin to second guess themselves, there's often a lot of shame and embarrassment that comes along with that experience," said Crowder.
"[We're] reaching out to survivors and letting them know they're supported, they're believed, and there's healing and help available."
The Take Back the Night March was part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, the first one on P.E.I.
While the march is the most public event of the week, it has also been marked by an "Only Yes Means Yes" social media campaign, which is aimed at educating people about what consent looks like.
If there's any doubt, then take that as a no, and back off. Be respectful. — Rachael Crowder
"It doesn't mean we can't have healthy and wonderful sexual relationships, but it also means that no means no," said Crowder.
"Anything that is not ongoing, enthusiastic, sober, you know — if there's any doubt, then take that as a no, and back off. Be respectful."
Islanders interested in learning more about the campaign, or who are in need of help dealing with a recent or past sexual assault, can contact the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre.