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This article was published 26/9/2015 (1541 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Women and allies met at Princess Park Friday night for the annual Take Back the Night march to end violence against women.
This year, the event was organized by the Brandon University Students’ Union along with several community partners, including the Brandon Women’s Resource Centre and the Sexuality Education Resource Centre.
Corinne Mason, professor of women and gender studies at Brandon University and faculty adviser for the event, says even though Take Back the Night is an internationally recognized event, little has changed for women since the first march in the 1970s.
"I don’t think the rates of violence against women have decreased," Mason said.
However, she does believe technology has changed the kinds of violence and harassment women are exposed to.
"A lot of technologically driven violence like stalking and harassment online and the sharing of confidential photos has become a really large issue," Mason said.
On Friday, marchers met at the park to listen to community members speak about issues ranging from sexual assault on campuses to violence against transgender women to missing and murdered indigenous women.
According to Statistics Canada data from 1993, which was the last time a survey asked women about their lifetime experience of violence, half of all women in Canada had experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence since the age of 16.
According to the Brandon Police Service, there have been 55 sexual assaults reported in the city this year, a 22 per cent increase from last year. That statistic does not specify the gender or age of the victims.
Mason says it’s hard to know what the situation is like for women in Brandon because there is a lack of data available and a lack of resources for assault survivors.
"People aren’t going forward and when they do go forward, they don’t know that (it) will necessarily follow up in ways that bring justice to their lives and experiences," she said. "I absolutely know about sexual assaults that have happened on (BU’s) campus, but ... it’s terribly scary to go forward with information."
Citing the recent backlash against women who spoke out about alleged sexual assaults by Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi, Mason says victim-blaming is a serious problem that is often perpetuated by the media.
"The only thing that causes rape is rapists," she said.
With the Oct. 19 federal election looming, the Sun spoke with several candidates about how they would make Brandon-Souris safer for women if elected.
Green party candidate David Neufeld says it is paramount that victims not only feel comfortable reporting violence to authorities, but that their stories are believed by authorities.
"Making sure police are serious about zero tolerance," he said. "If a woman calls complaining about being abused, her word is taken as fact until proven otherwise."
While he would like the entire community to model respectful behaviour, Neufeld says he wants to see schools teaching young men that violence against women is unacceptable.
"We have sex education, we have to have emotional maturity education for young men," he said.
Conservative candidate Larry Maguire says his government will create tougher sentences
for offenders, citing the government’s introduction of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which came into effect this year.
"During the campaign, we have unveiled plans to introduce ‘Life means Life’ legislation to keep the most violent and dangerous criminals behind bars," Maguire wrote in an email. "This builds on our record of protecting Westman residents through measures such as eliminating the use of conditional sentences, or house arrest, for serious and violent crimes."
Liberal candidate Jodi Wyman says Brandon’s victim services need to be strengthened.
"I would like to see the non-profit organizations in Brandon that address the marginalized population as well as women in crisis, have increased funding and more supports," Wyman said.
She would like to see more counselling available for children growing up in violent households.
"We need to make sure that we help them understand that it’s an unacceptable way to handle their emotions, and if we can help them through it, we can break the cycle," Wyman said.
NDP candidate Melissa Wastasecoot says her party would hold an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women within the first 100 days in office. Locally, she would work with services like SERC and the BPS.
"Working with our own home organizations here is really important to properly assess what is going on in our community to ensure these kinds of issues are handled properly and professionally," Wastasecoot said.
Mason says she would like to see candidates standing in solidarity with events like Take Back the Night, rather than using violence against women as an election issue.
"I reject imagining the issue of violence against women as both a partisan politic and as an electoral platform," Mason said. "The problem with women’s issues debates is that they are fodder for the media and they really pay lip service to a much bigger, more complex issue that doesn’t begin or end with an election season."
» Twitter: @evawasney