Up to 100 people marched in Ballarat last night to demonstrate their refusal to accept violence against women and sexual violence or abuse in the community.
The Take Back the Night march was organised by staff from CASA (Centre Against Sexual Assault) and was attended by men and women, with a slightly higher number of women.
April Lee said violence against women was widespread and she was moved to attend the march because she had put up with 30 years of abuse from her husband.
“Mine was in the ’80s where it was very hush-hush and you couldn’t talk. There was no help around so now I’d like to give back to help other young people in the community,” she said.
Matthew Thomson, 35, and Tim Bradley, 32, attended the march to show “visual support” and to combat what they see to be a sense of apathy in the community toward violence, especially violence toward women.
Mr Bradley said the aim was to show the community that people were willing to make a stand.
“I think you’ve got to start locally, I mean if everyone started locally it wouldn’t be a national problem,” he said.
Senior counsellor at CASA, Andrea Lockhart, said a lot of people they worked with could not speak out and the march not only gave them a voice but also made the community aware of the issue. One woman joined the march “on the spur of the moment” after attending CASA yesterday for counselling.
She said women like her who were experiencing violence in their relationships should “leave, don’t put up with it, seek help, seek support”.
Two men, Gary and Stuart, who are also clients of CASA, said the memories of sexual abuse they experienced as children “control” them.
“Anybody gets abused that way or any type of abuse, the impact on your life is terrible,” said Gary.
“Profound,” said Stuart, adding: “There’s no shame in breaking your silence”.
Ballarat City councillor Belinda Coates said the campaign was something “we all should be supporting to make our community a safer place.”