It was equal parts solemn and empowering for women in Penticton Wednesday night, as a few dozen people gathered in Gyro Park to Take Back the Night.
The annual walk, organized by the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society and the South Okanagan Women In Need Society, brought mostly women, though several children and a few men showed their support.
“Something exciting that we do every single year is women take to the streets and we take back the night, something that a lot of us feel very strongly about,” said SOWINS executive director Debbie Scarborough.
The event is in support of women who have been victims of violence outside at night, and demands safety for women in the streets at night.
“You could probably interview 100 women anywhere from all demographics, and I would say probably 98 out of 100 would say they wouldn’t feel safe walking the streets, for example, at four o’clock in the morning,” Scarborough said.
“Of course, if we do and we have the misfortune of getting assaulted, it’s like ‘what were you wearing?’”
Scarborough scolded the societal tendency to point to the clothing a woman was wearing at the time of a sexual assault.
“If you were running and you were wearing shorts and maybe a short shirt because it’s hot, we get, ‘Well why were you wearing that?’ like it’s an invitation, and that’s just wrong, no matter what we wear, no matter what time.”
At six feet tall, and with some boxing skills under her belt, Scarborough said she still doesn’t feel safe in parts of Penticton.
“If I don’t feel like it’s safe for me everywhere, then what does the average height female feel?” she asked. “If we make it safe for women and children, we make it safe for everyone.”
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls hearings with the federal government have started up again, recently holding hearings in northern B.C., and that has struck another poignant chord for Scarborough.
“Coming from Terrace, and knowing some of those individuals that are on the murdered and missing or the Highway of Tears,” she said.
“When we come out and walk we walk for those that are no longer here beside us walking, that have lost their lives to violence, and that are still missing.”