Reclaim the night, reclaim our rights

Ellen O’Brien argues for the significance of talking about and marching against gendered violence

reclaim-the-night

reclaim-the-night

While the birth and subsequent meteoric rise of the Internet has brought with it countless treasures (information overload aside), it has also delivered the scourge of the modern Earth – internet trolls. Trolls – when they escape the grimy walls of Reddit and 4chan – spread their tentacles into the social hub of our generation, infiltrating Facebook events and pages at an unrivalled speed. Events attacked are frequently activist in nature – anything aimed at making our society a better and fairer place for all is fair game for these unruly fiends.

Most recently, a team of young people targeted the Reclaim the Night Sydney event page for 2013, posting links to videos and images along with sarcastic comments. The tamest of comments was a clip from the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” posted together with the following remark: “Together we can help reclaim the night, Sydney has become a hot bed of crime and sin, at 7pm we will look to the skies for our salvation”. Coupled with the other comments, their message became clear: talking about, and marching against, violence against women is pointless as the problem does not exist. Or if it does, it does not impact a significantly large portion of the population as to render it important. That’s it, everyone. Pack up and head home. The irony is, despite what common gendered violence narratives tell us, the majority of violence occurs in places familiar to the victim – including homes shared with family, partners, and/or friends.

Despite a considerable lack of media interest, gendered violence is a serious issue in Australia, one that affects many people on a daily basis. One woman will be killed at the hands of an intimate partner every week. One in three women over 15 will report physical or sexual violence sometime over their lifetime; unreported rates (given the failings of our legal system) are likely to be even higher. In Sydney, domestic and family violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness among women and children.

Despite this data, heterosexual domestic violence is rarely talked about and coverage is limited to seemingly random high-profile attacks taking place outside of the home. Even rarer still are discussions about violence within non-heteronormative relationships, or whether government responses to alarmingly high rates of violence are adequate for the diverse range of people who use their services.

By taking our voices to the streets, by hosting panel discussions, by inviting all members of the community to hear representatives from the NSW Rape Crisis Centre and Scarlett Alliance (among others) speak, we aim to bring light to the serious nature of gendered violence, and to assist in changing the culture that exists around such violence. In every community, attitudes need to be altered to reflect the multitude of realities that people affected by gendered violence experience. The victim is not to blame; it is not always as easy as leaving an abusive partner; violence can and does occur in queer relationships; the social stigma around sex work must be completely destroyed.

No matter the circumstance, jokes are never acceptable. While Facebook trolling may seem relatively harmless, it is indicative of a larger societal problem – that gendered violence is not taken seriously because it is believe that the only “real” gendered violence is the small percentage of cases covered in mainstream media.

One of this year’s organisers of Reclaim the Night, Katherine Bullen, notes that “Reclaim will only stop being relevant when violence is no longer an issue.” Given the current state of dialogue in our papers and on our televisions, Reclaim may be destined to be around for a considerable length of time. The organisers and supporters of Reclaim the Night will be attempting to change that on October 26 – come and make your voice heard.

Reclaim the Night is an annual event protesting all forms of violence against women. Reclaim the Night Sydney 2013 will be held on October 26 at Prince Alfred Park, Surry Hills. For more information, please visit the website at http://RTNsydney.com.

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