The Reclaim the Night rally is returning for its 36th year in Adelaide on Friday, November 13 aiming to unite women from diverse backgrounds and experiences to stand together in addressing issues of violence against women and children.
Reclaim the Night, also known as Take Back the Night in some countries, is a global protest movement against men’s violence towards women. Established in the 1970s, the event encourages grassroots participation from all women to call for an end to gender inequality while simultaneously demanding justice, support, and funding for victims of violence and abuse. Anita Tran, a member of Adelaide’s Reclaim the Night organising committee, says that breaking down the stigma around domestic violence and challenging victim-blaming mentalities are essential elements to addressing issues of violence against women. “Domestic violence is something that’s seen as dirty laundry, as a private thing – discussion is necessary in terms of understanding why these things are happening, and de-stigmatising it so women can talk about it and seek assistance if necessary,” Tran tells The Adelaide Review. “Part of the job of Reclaim the Night is to bring these private incidents into the public sphere and create dialogue about it. [Violence against women] is a public health issue and should be treated as such.” According to the 2012 ABS Personal Safety Survey, one in five women in Australia since the age of 15 has experienced sexual violence, compared to one in 22 men. Australian women are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a person they know than a stranger. Fifteen percent of Australian women (15 and over) had been sexually assaulted by a person they knew, compared to 3.8 percent by a stranger. Four out of five women who had experienced sexual assault did not contact the police about the most recent incident. Furthermore, Indigenous women experience disproportionately high levels of family violence. In 2013, Our Watch conducted their four-yearly National Community Attitudes survey where responses are collected from Australians of differing gender, age, socioeconomic status and cultural background. The results indicated that 86 percent of participants believed that women are more likely to suffer physical harm from domestic violence than men, as well as showing some alarming attitudes held by Australians – for example, 53 percent of participants believed that women fabricate or exaggerate domestic violence in family law cases, while 43 percent believed that rape results from men not being able to control their need for sex and 19 percent believed that if a woman is raped while drug-affected, she bears responsibility for the rape. The past few years have seen increased dialogue about violence against women in the media and government on both local and national levels. In 2010, the Federal Government implemented the 12-year National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. The National Plan focuses on preventative approaches to addressing violence, providing support to victims, educating men about violence against women, and building a database of evidence of effective methods in reducing instances of violence. South Australia recently introduced the Multi Agency Protection Service (MAPS), a cross-agency initiative designed to better target responses to the wellbeing needs of children and families who are at risk of domestic violence. Tran says that violence against women is upheld by sexist attitudes. “We are perpetuating a culture of gendered violence every time we focus on what the victim was wearing and what they were doing out of the house at night, instead of focusing on the actions of the perpetrator,” she says. Claire Tatyzo, policy and programs officer at YWCA Adelaide, says that Reclaim the Night is an important public platform for women to stand in solidarity in opposition of sexual violence. “Violence against women is a whole of community issue – historically, it’s been relegated to the home but the more we challenge it publicly, the more we can change community attitudes.” The YWCA stresses the importance of education in the prevention of violence and abuse against women and children, and is responsible for a variety of local initiatives to raise awareness about the issue, including delivering Australia’s only primary school respectful relationships program – Respect, Communicate, Choose. This year saw the launch of Rise Above The Pack, a community safety campaign with a focus on positive bystander awareness that looks to engage men as ambassadors in promoting safe spaces. According to the Rise Above The Pack website, a fundamental aspect of the campaign is “the need to shift responsibility from a victim or potential victim, and re-focus responsibility on a perpetrator or potential perpetrator”. Thirty-six years after its Australian inception, the need for an event like Reclaim the Night is still highly relevant to women’s experiences with violence and abuse. “There is an incredible shift happening in the community at the moment around awareness, dialogue, investment, concern and action,” saysTatyzo. “It’s really important to recognise the women who have been championing these causes, quite often unheard, because we’re at this exciting moment in the history of Australia where we think there can be some real critical change.” The Reclaim the Night rally will begin at 6.30pm at Tarndanyangga (Victoria Square) on Friday, November 13. facebook.com/ReclaimTheNightAdelaide If you or anyone you know is experiencing sexual or domestic violence, you can contact 1800 RESPECT or visit the Yarrow Place website at yarrowplace.sa.gov.au