THE murder of 29-year-old Jill Meagher in Melbourne over a month ago has prompted Ballarat women to take to the streets to reclaim the night.
This Friday will mark the first time in 14 years that Ballarat has recognised the international Take Back the Night event with a march.
Led by the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA), women from all walks of life will take to the streets to protest against sexual violence against women. Men are also encouraged to join the walk as a show of support and to acknowledge that some men are also survivors of sexual violence.
It was Ms Meagher’s death that prompted Brigid Walsh and Kate Drury to bring back the walk.
Ms Drury said with the national spotlight on violence against women, the Ballarat community strongly felt that women should be free to move within the city without the fear of sexual violence.
“I think that the walk is really important as a symbolic gesture to stand up as a community and say that we will not tolerate sexual violence directed at anyone,” Ms Drury said.
“One in five Australian women experience some form of sexual violence in their life. The majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by men known to the victim. Ballarat women want the right to feel safe not just in our city, but in their homes and relationships.”
CASA manager Shireen Gunn said that this year the walk was about breaking the silence on sexual violence against women and children and as a community standing together on this issue.
“The walk is also a mark of respect to the strength of our sisters, mothers, daughters, friends and also to the men we may know who have experienced sexual violence,” she said.
The twilight walk will start outside the Ballarat Town Hall at 7.45pm Friday, where marchers will be welcomed by Ballarat MP Catherine King. The walk will move up Lydiard Street North, before heading east through Police Lane and ending about 9pm in the Bridge Mall.
“All participants are welcomed in a show of solidarity and men are encouraged to wear a white ribbon. Walkers are asked to bring a torch and whistle,” Ms Gunn said.