“Women unite, take back the night. Break the silence, end the violence. Yes means yes. No, means no.”
Those were the chants that led a group of about 50 women, men and children through the streets of Kelowna Thursday night.
The “Take Back the Night” march and rally form an annual event in the Okanagan city, organized by the Kelowna Elizabeth Fry Society.
“It’s a night to protest and rally to make our streets safe for women,” executive director Michelle Novakowski said.
The event began in 1975 and now takes place in more than 30 countries around the world.
Novakowski said there’s been a social shift when it comes to the issue of relationship violence thanks to the Me Too and Times Up movements.
“I see that women are coming out and male survivors and they’re naming their perpetrators,” she said. “Their shame is being taken away. The stigma is being taken away.”
The shift can be seen, but Novakowski said the community still has a long way to go to make streets, homes and workplaces safer for women.
“We had the highest rate of domestic violence in Canada in 2011 and the highest in B.C. in 2013,” Novakowski said of Kelowna statistics.
Event organizers hoped to help empower more people to find their voices against violence.
“Although we like to think it doesn’t happen in our neighbourhood, it’s everywhere,” she said.
The Elizabeth Fry Society helps advocate and support women in communities across Canada.