'We march as women, refusing to be silent about sexual violence," said Manon Albert, chair of River Valley Caring Communities Committee, before setting out in the 11th annual Take Back The Night march along Woodstock's Main Street on Friday, Sept. 16.
Albert succinctly listed the reasons for the Take Back The Night march, which she described as a global mission to end all violence against women.
— To state our refusal to take responsibility for sexual harassment, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, incest and recognize that only the perpetrator of these crimes is to blame.
— To celebrate the steps we are taking to support each other and to create change.
— To experience the freedom of what it is like to walk at night and not be dependent on the protection of men.
— To remind each other that as individuals, we have strength, and together, we are even stronger.
— To remember our sisters who have survived and those who have been taken from us as a result of sexual violence.
— To shout out our desires to live freely without the threat and fear of violence.
Albert thanked the Woodstock Police Force for supporting the march and its goals. She also expressed gratitude to Mayor Art Slipp for "faithfully joining us every year.."
Slipp reflected on the importance of the message delivered by the annual march.
He praised the efforts of the Woodstock Police Force and Chief Gary Forward to combat intimate partner violence (IPV), citing the Aug. 16 discussion they hosted on the subject.
Slipp said several senior provincial departmental officials attended the session at the AYR Motor Centre, with representatives of local area NGOs and various government partners discussing the need for collaboration and a coordinated approach to addressing this problem.
Chief Forward described the August session.
"The session brought together various stakeholders to see how we might better partner in our united effort to raise IPV awareness and provide support to victims," said Chief Forward.
He described IPV as a priority for the Woodstock Police Force, noting the appointment of Cpl. Seth Cahill as the town force's IPV coordinator.
The mayor also commented on the role of the WPF Community Resource Officer and the Department of Public Safety in the "Love Shouldn't Hurt Campaign," aimed at educating both males and females about this serious problem.
Albert also welcomed representatives of the new Tobique First Nation and Woodstock First Nation outreach programs to the 2022 Take Back the Night march.
"We aim to raise awareness about the problem of sexual violence, sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as support those who have been victimized," said Albert.
She said sexual violence is not always physical. It can be visual, as in unwanted sexual advances in visual forms or exposing sexual organs without a chance of consent.
Albert said sexual violence could be verbal, as in speech that expresses or implies sexual intent.
"In fact, one of the most common forms of sexual violence is verbal because it is often normalized as joking around," she said.
Albert noted sexual violence could also be psychological, such as emotional and mental manipulation for sexual intent or sexual harassment or assault affecting mental health.
"An example of this would be living in fear because of harassment or threats of sexual nature," said Albert. "Don't let anyone invalidate your experience because it doesn't match their incorrect definition.
Albert said the fight against sexual violence heads to Nackawic Friday, Sept. 23, with an event starting at 7 p.m. at the library.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun