Take Back the Night rallies emphasize the importance of feeling safe
The fear of walking alone at night is something every woman, femme and transgender person, or any individual who was socialized as female, knows all too well; worse still is the fear of being sexually assaulted by someone lurking in the dark.
Although statistics show that these types of sexual assaults are uncommon and unlikely – compared to assaults by someone you know – it is nevertheless a very real concern for those of us who experience it. This is how the Take Back the Night movement was born. The first time I had ever heard of Take Back the Night was during my third year at Mount Allison, at a WGST poster-making event. Take Back the Night was something that had not happened for a long time in Sackville, but through speaking with members of that year’s exec and reading about the movement online, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.
At this year’s Take Back the Night rally, I had the privilege to speak and share my story about my experiences with fear and sexual assault. In some ways, I feel that my experience as a masculine-presenting non-binary person who was socialized as female is valuable. I have felt – and still continue to feel – fear when walking alone at night because it was branded into me by society and by men who take advantage of others. This had been my experience for the first 18 years of my life.
When I socially transitioned and started presenting as masculine, there was a huge shift in how my body was viewed by others in different contexts. For the first time in my life, I had women cross the street when they saw me walking my dog at night. They would cut through parks or lawns, or take the long way to get away from me. It was shocking. It upsets me to know that my presence at night elicits the same fear that I have felt my whole life. No decent human being would ever want to be the cause of someone’s anxiety.
But it’s not just masculine-looking bodies that are scary. A way that we can start making people in our community safer is by doing simple things like not dressing up like known sexual assaulters for Halloween. Halloween is a great time to dress as the funniest character from your favourite sitcom, as your favourite politician, or as your favourite artists. So why would you choose a rapist? Sorry to burst your bubble, but if this past Halloween you chose to dress like Daniel Hernandez, more famously known as 6ix9ine, you chose to glamorize sexual assault. Dressing as a rapper who has been charged with several sexual misconducts is yet another example of normalizing his behaviour and perpetuating violence, rape and rape culture, and fear.
This is why it is so important to have events like Take Back the Night – because bodies and how you dress them can cause someone a great deal of pain. So when your naïve neighbor from residence wants to represent a rapist because they think it is funny, you can call them out and educate them. As a society, we have to stop trivializing and normalizing this type of behaviour. We have to hold people accountable for their actions instead of allowing them to continue to create unsafe spaces. We need to set policies that allow victims and survivors of sexual assault to feel safe, to allow everyone to feel safe. That is what Take Back the Night is all about: drawing attention to the microaggressions and behaviours that perpetuate and encourage rape culture and demanding change. It forces us to look at this issue from every angle.
This movement is, unfortunately, very needed, but so long as there is rape and sexual assault, we will continue to fight. We will not be intimidated, we will not be stopped and we will make our voices heard because it is everyone’s goddamn right to feel safe.