GUELPH Mercury Sept 27, 2013 — Women in Crisis extended the walk and its reach as it organized the 31st Take Back the Night event in Guelph Thursday night.
More than 200 women, children, men and dogs — the biggest crowd ever — converged at Marianne’s Park for a drumming circle welcome and speeches. Then they walked up Gordon Street and through the downtown core in a longer walk than previous years. Then they gathered for more speeches and entertainment outside city hall.
This year’s walk was tinged with the recent memory of two universities that glorified non-consensual sex in chants during frosh week — St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.
As a result, an even greater number of students from the University of Guelph lent their support to Take Back the Night than former years.
With that backdrop, Karen Girard’s story of domestic violence was even more moving.
Girard said she didn’t recognize the signs when she started seeing a man who others told her was violent.
“I fell hard and I fell fast and I ignored the red flags,” she said.
Even when the violence began, she couldn’t leave him. And for a while he sobered up and the behaviour changed.
Then she became pregnant and he didn’t want her to have the baby. He beat and kicked her and threatened to push her down the stairs.
When an ultrasound couldn’t find a heartbeat, even her doctor feared the worst and Girard said she started to bargain with God.
“I promised to leave this domestic violence if He’d let the baby live. When I learned the baby was OK, two weeks later I left.
“I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor,” she said. “You have to be the change you want to see.”
Many women who attended the event had experienced violence and abuse first-hand. Others were there in support of or in memory of friends and family with abuse in their lives.
It was the first time Christine Duncan had attended a Take Back the Night event and she had some difficulty voicing why she came.
“I have had abuse in my past,” she said, “and I have friends who are living with abuse. It’s not easy to leave; it’s not easy to stay. This event is empowering though. It gives you courage.
“I hope it helps women find the courage to leave. And I hope it helps men find the decency to stop.”