What is Take Back the Night?  |  The Story of TBTN  |  Why We Protest in Our Province
Why the March is a Women-Only Event  |  How To Get Involved  |  What Men Can Do
Organize a Take Back the Night March

What is Take Back the Night?

Take Back the Night is an action created to enable large numbers of women to publicly express our anger and intolerance of violence against women and vulnerable groups. We are told from the time we are young not to walk alone, not to go out after dark, to avoid strangers and to avoid dangerous areas of town; if we can avoid such 'dangerous' behaviours, then we can avoid violent attacks. The reality of course is that the largest number of women experience violence in their own home, at the hand of someone they know. The Take Back the Night March is a public protest organized by women, for women. It serves as a means for women to unite and voice our desire to end the fear and perceived responsibility women experience when it comes to sexual assault, harassment, and other forms of violence.


The Story of TBTN

Women's taking to the streets at night to protest violence against women originated in Europe in the early 1970s. The first North American night march for women was held in New York in 1976. The slogan "Take Back the Night" was first introduced as a theme for a protest march held in San Francisco in 1978. That same year, Canadian women took to the streets when an ad-hoc group called the "Fly-By-Night Collective" organized a march in Vancouver. From 1980-1985, Take Back the Night marches were organized by Vancouver Rape Relief, the first rape crisis centre in Canada. In 1981, The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres declared that Take Back the Night marches would be held on the third Friday in September so that all across Canada women would be marching on the same night. The NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre, formally know as the St. John's Rape Crisis and Information Centre, has been organizing Take Back the Night marches in St. John's since 1985, with much support and help from community members and organizations.


Why We Protest in Our Province

Estimates suggest that in 2004, approximately 10,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in our province, with only 6% of cases ever having been reported.1

Statistics Canada data reveals that Newfoundland and Labrador continues to exceed the national average of sexual assault offences.2

According to Statistics Canada, the spousal-homicide rate for women is 5 times higher than that of men.3

Each month, the Sexual Assault Crisis Line receives up to 150 calls from people in our province that have been impacted by sexual violence. The effects of sexual violence are often long lasting and far reaching. Survivors may be forced to deal with emotional challenges as a result of their assault, for years to come. Many survivors say sexual assault changes you forever. Friends and family of sexual assault victims may struggle with feelings of guilt that the assault happened and fear that their loved ones could be hurt again. It is a difficult journey of healing for victims and loved ones, when the reality of sexual violence becomes a part of their lives.

In 2004-2005 Iris Kirby House (a shelter for women, located in St. John's) received almost 10,000 calls from women in St. John's and across the province.

Violence is a reality for a great many women in Newfoundland and Labrador.  We cannot ignore this. Once each year, women and children gather to march in unity as a form of protest, and as  a symbol of hope for future change. As individuals, women may have their own personal reasons for marching on the 3rd Friday of September. As you read the list below, take a moment to consider the reasons you march each year. If you have never marched, or been absent from the marches, perhaps you will be inspired to take part in the next TBTN march in September.



  • To stand together as women, refusing to be silent about sexual violence and all forms of violence.
  • To state our refusal to take responsibility for sexual harassment, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, incest and battering, and recognizing that only the perpetrator of these crimes is to blame.
  • To celebrate the steps we are taking to support each other and to create change
  • To experience the freedom of what it is like to walk at night and not be dependant on the protection of men.
  • To remind each other that as individuals we have strength and together we are even stronger.
  • To remember our sisters who have survived, and those who have been taken from us, as a result of violence.
  • To shout out our desire to live freely without the threat and fear of violence.


Why the March is a Women-Only Event

There will be times in feminist activism when men are respectfully asked to understand the need for women-only space or events. Some men may experience this as a sort of reverse discrimination. What is important to remember, however, is that by virtue of the real and continuing power differences in our society between men and women as groups, the occasional exclusion of men by women has a very different meaning then the historical exclusion of women by men. In other words, to suggest that there is no need for women-only space or events is to ignore the ongoing reality of male privilege. The fact remains that domination and victimization are not distributed equally - across all class and ethnic boundaries women suffer disproportionately at the hands of men. Fear of violence circumscribes women's lives in daily, subtle, and not-so-subtle ways.

Despite our best intentions, all of us, men and women, are still operating within a culture pervaded by patriarchy and misogyny, and we are inevitably put into unequal power positions to some degree. Without a doubt there are many men who have suffered sexual abuse and many more who support the survivors of sexual violence. We understand this: men are invited and heartily welcomed to every other event during Sexual Violence Awareness Week, including the rally at the end of the Take Back the Night March. However, the march itself will remain women-only.

Take Back the Night is an event geared toward empowering women to confront fears about rape and assault by reclaiming the evening streets en masse. The event calls for safety and equality for women in all places, at all times. It is a far more powerful statement for women to be marching through the streets at night without any men to 'protect' them. It is also a chance to publicly celebrate women's solidarity: the march is women-only to symbolically underline that women will not be passive & accept the violence against them but will instead speak out and take action together for change.


How To Get Involved

There are many ways to show your support to end sexual violence. Here are just a few examples:

  • Organize a TBTN march in your community, and march with other women all over Canada on the 3rd Friday of September. You can find some information and tips below on organizing a march.
  • Plan to attend the march in St. John's, or another community. You may consider fundraising to pay for a charter bus, or pay for travel costs like gas if you are car-pooling.
  • Volunteer with the NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre, or another organization that acknowledges the reality of sexual violence, and the link with existing social paradigms that make it acceptable to disempower women.
  • Educate yourself and others on sexual violence issues, by requesting and attending workshops and presentations delivered by groups like NLSACPC.
  • Write to government leaders and representatives to address concerns about the justice system and light sentencing of sexual assault perpetrators.
  • Organize a fundraising effort to support the NLSACPC, and help pay for services like the 24 hour crisis line, and TBTN events.


What Men Can Do

As women, we value and respect the men who are in support of Take Back the Night. We are aware that sexual violence impacts men, as well as women and children. However, the main theme of Take Back the Night is to challenge the messages that women have learned from a very young age. One of these, namely, is that girls should fear walking alone at night without a man's protection. This feeling of being unprotected and afraid is degrading and damaging for women. Unfortunately, it is a reality of our society. Take Back the Night is a symbolic march for women and children. It is a chance for women to walk alone at night, feeling safe and empowered, without having to ask a man to accompany her. There are many women who march who have experienced rape and sexual violence. Most often, the perpetrator is a man and these are women who live in fear of all men because of this experience. This march symbolizes a women's right for safety.

We sincerely request that men sympathetic to what we are working towards - an end to sexual violence for everyone - recognize the ongoing reality of male privilege and respect our decision to maintain the women-only tradition of the Take Back the Night March. If you are a man who truly wishes to support Take Back the Night event, please know that there are several ways you can participate. The following suggest ways you can show your support:

  • Join us at any & all of our other events during Sexual Violence Awareness Week, including the rally at the end of the march.
  • Understand and accept that Take Back the Night is a time when women must join together with each other to demonstrate their individual strength in taking control of their lives, in breaking the silence that keeps women in fear, to declare that they will no longer accept violence as inevitable, and to celebrate their collective strength as women, without the perception of needing male protection to do so.
  • Stand along the March route and cheer us on. If you are in a car, honk your horn to show support.
  • Organize your own events to protest sexual violence and raise awareness about sexual violence issues.
  • Listen to women when they tell you what they do or don't want, believe women when they tell you about their experiences, support them when they fight against abuse & oppression.
  • Hold your male friends accountable when they make sexist comments (even when women are not around) or when they pressure or force someone into any kind of sexual activity (from touching, to kissing, to intercourse)
  • Address the privilege of earning more money than women do in this society by donating funds to the NL Sexual Assault Crisis & Prevention Centre or a women's shelter.
  • Offer childcare to women friends or partners so that they may attend the march and other activities.


Organize a Take Back the Night March

You do not need a lot of money or supplies to organize a Take Back the Night March. If you start planning early you may even be able to avail of donations from community businesses and individuals who support the symbolism of the march. Here are some tips and ideas to help you plan a march:

  • If you live in a small town you may want to join forces with women in neighbouring communities. Get the word out that you want to plan a march for the 3rd Friday of September. Make the planning a collective effort.
  • Choose a visible street to march on. You want to spread awareness and inspire people to think about the message behind the march.
  • Advertise the date and meeting time of the march. Put signs up at local stores, community centres, and town halls, or put an ad on the local community events channel, or in the local bulletin or newspaper.
  • Get together with other women to make signs to carry at the march. You may want to ask a local lumber or building centre to donate some sticks to attach the signs to.
  • Make noise! The march is about breaking the silence around violence against women - use noisemakers, horns, whistles, bells, shake an empty pop can filled with beans or pennies, or hit a kitchen pot or empty can with a spoon.
  • Brainstorm to create chants that you can shout as you march. A mega-phone is useful if you have many marchers. Here are some sample chants:

Women unite!

Take back the night!


I wish I may, I wish I might,

Take back the day, Take back the night!


1, 2, 3, 4! We won't take it anymore!

5, 6, 7, 8! No more violence! No more hate!


Wherever we go, however we dress,

No means no, and yes means yes!


What do we want? FREEDOM!

When do we want it? NOW!!

What do we want? JUSTICE!

When do we want it? NOW!!

Hey, hey! Ho, ho!

Patriarchy has got to go!


Respect! Equality!

That's the way its gotta be!


Not the church! Not the state!

Women must control our fate!


Claim our bodies, Claim our right,

Take a stand, Take back the night!


No more silence!

No more violence!


Stop rape now!

  • Bring flashlights to light the way as you walk. It is a good idea to wear reflective bands, or reflective safety vests to increase your visibility to traffic.
  • Put in a request to your local RNC or RCMP detachment for a female officer to lead your march in a patrol car. Not only does the added noise from the siren and visibility from the flashing lights draw attention, it is also a good safety measure.
  • Offer simple face painting for children who attend the march; suitable face paint can be purchased at dollar stores very inexpensively.
  • Have an afternoon or evening for children to make the signs you carry at the march. We provide small children with sheets of paper that already have slogans and statements on them (Stop Violence!; Women Unite, Take Back the Night; Why Can't I Walk Alone?; We Want Justice; etc.), which they select and glue to half sheets of coloured bristol board. All they need are supplies like markers, crayons, paint, brushes, etc. (and a little supervision!) to decorate the signs with. Cut outs of stars, moons, and other shapes make the process simple and fun for little ones.
  • Approach your municipal council and request they sign a proclamation to declare Sexual Violence Awareness Week. You can use the provincial proclamation (available at NLSACPC), or create your own to suit your communities needs.
  • Invite women from local unions and organizations to attend the march and carry a banner representing their affiliations.
  • Request to have the flags at your town or city hall lowered to half mast in recognition of the women who have been taken from us, as a result of violence.

Use the process of organizing the march as an opportunity to get to know women in and around your community. The more women who are involved, the greater the number of ideas will be generated and the more diverse and unique your march will be!


Call 747-7757 Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm for additional information, or email coordinator@sexualassaultcentre.nf.net

1Derived from raw data provided to NLSACPC from RNC and RCMP in 2004.
2Statistics Canada, http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/legal17n.htm
3Statistics Canada, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2005.

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