When people in Williams Lake participated in the annual Take Back the Night Walk Friday they were building on a tradition that began almost two centuries ago in England.
“Over the years it’s morphed,” Women’s Contact Society executive director Irene Willsie said of the walk. It started out as a protest event where people actually went to jail for participating.
“Now it’s a peaceful, awareness-raising walk that draws attention to not only violence against women in our community, but any sort of violence in the community.”
After the walk, held Friday beginning at Boitanio Park and ending at Marie Sharpe elementary school for a chilli and bannock dinner prepared by the Friendship Society, Willsie said the impacts of violence are not only felt by immediate families, but by the whole community.
Children who witness violence do not feel safe and people who witness violence repeatedly are also impacted.
“It’s important that we don’t normalize violence,” Willsie said.
On behalf of the city, Coun. Ivan Bonnell participated in the walk and said his presence there symbolized city council’s commitment to ending violence in the community.
“Violence is a public crime, not a private act,” Bonnell said. “We are dedicated to ending violence in public places as well as encouraging people to act when they are aware of violence in homes.”
Take Back the Night is a good way to raise awareness of the need for people to phone the RCMP, and assist victims in whatever way they can without being judgemental.
“People can call on community resources to assist in helping victims and taking action towards perpetrators,” Bonnell said. “Hopefully one day we’ll be able to celebrate a violence-free community.”
Shuswap elder Mary Thomas said more and more awareness is being created and more supports made available to victims of violence.
“The Integrated Case Assessment Team, which first originated in Vernon, is practiced by many helping organizations such as RCMP and different ministries,” Thomas said.
Historically, the culture of First Nations people was not to discuss violence, Thomas added.
Williams Lake RCMP Const. Kelly McIntyre said there are great supports in Williams Lake when it comes to helping victims of violence.
One night after dealing with a call about a woman who had been hurt, she sat at a table with ten people figuring out a way to make her safe.
“Even at the hospital, when we’re going there with victims or families of victims, the nurses and doctors have also been amazing and comforting,” McIntyre said.
It’s been an eye-opening first year of policing in Williams Lake, she said.
“There is an amazing group of people here dedicated to help people who are going through the complications and effects of violence.”