Take Back The Night – No shortcuts to ending sexual violence
Take Back the Night is a grassroots movement that began in 1975. Susan Alexander Speeth was stabbed while walking home in Philadelphia and the first Take Back the Night event was held as a response. The movement has grown over the following years and rallies are now held in many cities around the world.
Sexual Violence in Nova Scotia is Systemic and Worsening
Women experience domestic violence at three times the rate that men do. And women in Nova Scotia face sexual trafficking at the highest rates in the country. Yet only 10 percent of women report sexual violence as the wider culture punishes them for coming forward, with some communities facing added pressure to remain silent.
Sites of violence against Indigenous women are deeply tied to colonial sites of productions, the work being done to return children home to their lands and families. Indigenous peoples in Nova Scotia continue to seek a substantive response to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, the residential school system, and sites of resource extraction which are also commonly sites of sexual violence against women.
According to the Yellowhead Institute, colonial processes continue to target the personal agency and governance roles of women, transgender, queer, and Two-Spirit people. There is a resulting disregarded relationship between colonial systems and the autonomy of the land and women’s bodies. Funding should not come at the expense of women’s consent.
African Nova Scotian Women
African Nova Scotian women encounter implicit bias and/or overt discrimination in care. Street checks for which the RCMP refuse to apologize are the latest instance in a history of anti-Black violence. This violence compromises the ability of African Nova Scotian women to obtain accountability and healing for sexual violence. Redirecting funding to Black-led and alternative justice and healing initiatives is a small step to redress for these social harms.
Trans women are misgendered and subject to sexual violence in men’s prisons. Incarcerated women in women’s prisons also face sexual assault by prison staff with scant accountability. It is important to fund outreach to incarcerated women and gender oppressed people.
Unhoused women are facing increased policing. We live in a society where social housing is a low priority and what constitutes affordable housing is subject to interpretation. Encampments face brutal repressions. The shelters are full. When women and gender oppressed people need to flee sexual violence many are socially isolated. Where can they turn if they have no place to stay?
Disabled women who experience poverty are especially vulnerable. Disabled people who receive public benefits lose these benefits upon marriage, fostering financial dependence and the inability to leave an abusive partner. This is increasing public awareness of this policy issue which must be addressed.
The current response is not enough:
The pervasive risk in these communities exist in addition to already troubling trends in sexual violence in Nova Scotia. 88% of incidents of sexual assault go unreported to police, and 82% of these incidents affected women. This statistic does not reflect the complexity of the groups discussed above.
What all this bears out is what the government and experts recognize. Eliminating sexual violence in Nova Scotia requires a long-term integrated social, economic, and cultural response. The government is aware that an integrated response is required.
Yet the government has only invested short term funding (two to three year small grants) for innovation in community programs (largely aimed at youth), sexual assault counselling, postvention accountability circles, and online training yet there has been little to no long-term programming for trauma prevention and response, especially among LGBTQ, disabled, African Nova Scotian, Indigenous communities – the communities at highest risk. This kind of funding would only be a first step in addressing the pervasive and systemic factors which lead to sexual violence against women.
The time is now for government leaders to:
- Address the settler colonial roots of sexual violence among Indigenous, African Nova Scotian women through transformative relationships
- Invest in preventive support, outreach, and therapeutic programming for Women’s Centres across the province
- Fund community-led research and outreach against sexual violence among incarcerated and 2SLGBTTIQ women
- Fund alternative models of justice and healing of sexual violence
- Establish new policy and funding to support the autonomy of disabled women
- Commit lasting funding for social, affordable, and transitional housing
- Commit to permanently funding
We welcome women and gender oppressed people to lobby with us as we assert these demands and help all of us Take Back the Night.