A small group delivered a big message Friday, Sept. 15, as they marched through downtown Woodstock in the annual Take Back The Night walk.
Led by River Valley Caring Communities Committee chair Manon Albert, We’re Here For You non-profit founder Sarah Sherman, and Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones, the event focused on raising awareness and education surrounding violence against women.
Albert explained her organization’s mandate, since its founding in 1996, is to raise awareness, provide education, and training opportunities and host events related to the issues of intimate partner violence and sexual violence.
While the Take Back The Night march annually occurs on the third Friday in communities around the globe, Friday’s event is one of three in the Upper River Valley. She explained River Valley Caring Communities plans similar marches in Nackawic on Friday, Sept. 22, and at Tobique First Nation in early October.
Despite decades of action to raise awareness about the ongoing plight of sexual and domestic violence, the problem remains far too prevalent.
Mayor Jones noted recent stats demonstrate violence against women is growing alarmingly.
She cited a report delivered to council by Woodstock Police Force Gary Forward just a few days earlier as a stark indicator of the growing problem in Woodstock.
Jones said the Woodstock police reported a 47 per cent increase in calls involving sexual or domestic violence this year.
“If you translate that into numbers, that works out to almost one call per day,” she said. “That’s a lot.”
She said those numbers reflect only on Ward 4, the original Woodstock town boundaries before this year’s amalgamation.
Jones echoed Albert’s comments, noting the importance of awareness and education, especially the education of youth and young people.
Sherman, who recently joined the River Valley Caring Communities Committee, detailed the background of the “We’re Here For You” comfort program, a non-profit she founded to provide direct support to victims.
She explained the non-profit works with emergency rooms and forensic nurse examiners to deliver comfort kits to victims of sexual assault and intimate-partner violence.
As a victim herself, Sherman said she understands the fear, stigma and emotional toll victims face. She explained the comfort kits are designed to restore at least some sense of dignity to victims as they undergo examination and treatment at the hospital.
The program leaves tote bags carrying the comfort kits at the Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville and the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton. They contain toiletries and immediate personal care, new clothing, gift cards for fuel, meals, food, and other items.
She said the non-profit plans to broaden the program to other hospitals across the province soon.
More information about the River Valley Caring Communities and We’re Here For You is available on their respective Facebook sites.
Friday’s Take Back the Night march began and ended at the front entrance to the NBCC Woodstock campus, with walkers marching with signs to the Woodstock courthouse and back.
Sherman explained that Take Back The Night’s infancy dates back a half-century when women at the University of Southern Florida took a stand against the ongoing epidemic of violence against women by donning black sheets and broomsticks and marching through campus.
That march in 1973 grew into a global movement and the formation of the Take Back the Night Foundation.
Unfortunately, as all three women and others participating in the Woodstock march noted, the need for awareness and education remains far too high.
Albert said they will continue to push for change, no matter how long it takes.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun