Thursday, September 26 marked the fourth annual Take Back the Night Program, held in the Barrett Centre for Teaching and Innovation (Barrett CTI) at the North Campus. The event was presented in partnership with the University of Guelph-Humber, the Consent Peer Education program (CPEP), and IGNITE Student Life.
Take Back the Night is a movement started by women who had experienced sexual assault. Women and their allies participated through rallies, marches and candlelight vigils, to denounce all forms of sexual violence. Today, Take Back the Night recognizes that people of all genders can experience sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. However, women, particularly women with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized women, low-income women, and trans women are more likely to experience such violence.
Thursday’s event opened with a community resource fair where attendees could learn more about community organizations Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women, SAVIS of Halton, Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, Youth Without Shelter, Peel Regional Police, and Humber’s Department of Public Safety.
Ariel Berkeley, senior consent peer educator at Humber North Campus, University of Guelph-Humber and co-chair of this year’s event, explained the importance of the fair. “We understand that our community may have socioeconomic difficulties, and for that reason, we want to let them know that we have partners available to them in case they are in need,” she said. “That’s the real importance of Take Back the Night, in all facets. We don’t just cover sexual violence, because a survivor can take on so many roles—maybe they’re a mother, a parent. We want to cover that here.”
After opening remarks detailing the history of Take Back the Night programs from co-emcees Yamikani Msosa, diversity and inclusion initiatives coordinator and Cody Bennett, a consent peer educator, Jason Hunter, vice-president, students and institutional planning, spoke to the crowd. “As an educational institution, we are proud to take an active role and acknowledge the responsibility we have to be a part of ending sexual violence,” he said.
Attendees watched a musical performance by Saffron A. (UofGH alumna); two lyrical dance performances by BJP Choreography, led by choreographer and artistic creator Bryanna Persaud (also UofGH alumna); and Indigenous drumming led by Tonya Lee. Each performer also spoke candidly to the crowd, sharing personal stories.
Msosa invited self-identified survivors to take the lead at the front of the march if they wished, and led the crowd in a few practice chants as they prepared for the campus march, which ended at the LRC Concourse where refreshments were served.
Jessica Pilfold, student life coordinator at the University of Guelph-Humber and co-chair of the event’s planning committee, said that interest in the Take Back the Night programming grows every year as evidenced by the recognition and interest from community partners, as well as attendance numbers.
Pilfold reiterated that events like the Take Back the Night program and march are especially significant because they offer an opportunity to marginalized voices that aren’t often heard or recognized. “Sexual and gender-based violence happens every day to people in our lives. Everyone knows someone who has been affected, if not themselves,” she said. “It’s important to bring the conversation to the forefront, to give a voice to empower survivors and their allies to combat the silence and the stigma that often comes with recognition of sexual and gender-based violence.”
Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber approach all instances of sexual assault and violence through a survivor-centric lens. If you, or anyone you know, would like access to support services, click here.