Random sexual assault catalyst behind renewing vigil
REGINA – A random incident of sexual assault has left some women questioning their safety.
In the early morning hours of May 25th, a young woman was walking home from the Cathedral Arts Festival when she was sexually assaulted near Victoria Avenue and McIntyre Street.
“It made me physically ill and just sad,” said Donna Smith, a personal friend of the victim. “I could hardly tell anybody the story for days. It just shook me up every time.”
The assault is the catalyst behind renewing a candlelight vigil called Take Back the Night in Regina. The last time a similar event took place was in 2003 and is being held in front of City Hall on Wednesday evening.
“We hadn’t planned on it being such a large gathering and I think it’s just shown that there’s a need for it in this city.”
Saskatchewan continues to have one of the highest rates of violence against women of all the provinces.
The Regina Sexual Assault Centre says in the last year, 81 people reported to police that they were sexually assaulted.
“I would say more than half of our people don’t even report to the police,” said Abby Ulmer, a councilor at the centre. “And then there are lots of people that don’t contact us, don’t contact the police, don’t talk to anyone.”
The vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
“Random – yes sometimes they do happen,” said Ulmer. “But certainly not to the same extent as knowing your offender.”
A few years ago a poster campaign challenged men aged 19 to 25 not to be someone who commits a sexual assault. The campaign “Don’t Be That Guy” has been a popular strategy across Canada.
“We’re always telling women and girls to show less skin or to take more precautions and I think it needs to be the other way,” said Smith. “We need to tell boys and men to show more respect for women.”
Shifting the educational focus to boys and men is a strategy Smith hopes the City of Regina reintroduces. “I walk alone often and I visit restaurants and other events that happen downtown and I want to feel comfortable.”