MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (4.30): This afternoon I rise to bring attention to "reclaim the night."This is an annual global protest for and by women, backed by men, to demand the fundamental human right to live free from the fear and reality of sexual violence. I attended reclaim the night, along with my Assembly colleague Mr Rattenbury, last Friday evening, 25 October.
The statistics show that around one in five women and one in 20 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. Reclaim the night protests highlight the prevalence of sexual violence in our community and the importance of eliminating it. Sexual assault is a hidden crime and shame can make it difficult to discuss. Far too frequently, the victims are blamed because they were drinking or wearing "provocative"clothing. This delays their recovery and ultimately discourages women from coming forward.
Reclaim the night has been around for about 35 years. It really started gaining momentum in England during a period when the Yorkshire Ripper attacked and murdered 13 women between 1975 and 1980. At that time the police responded by telling women to stay inside after dark, effectively putting them under a curfew. The Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group called for women to march against rape and for the right to walk without fear at night. Hundreds of women took back their cities on the night of 12 November 1977, marching with flaming torches through city centres and back streets alike. They wanted to make the point that women should be able to walk anywhere and they should not be blamed or restricted because of men's violence. The issue needs to be addressed at its core, rather than women simply hiding from it.
Over the years reclaim the night has evolved to focus on rape and male violence, generally giving women one night when they can feel safe to walk the streets of their towns and cities around the world.
Reclaim the night is held on the last Friday of October and is run by the ACT Women's Services Network. Each year reclaim the night in Canberra has a theme. Past themes have included women with disabilities, healing through storytelling and celebrating history. The theme for 2013 was child sexual assault. The true crime rates for child sexual assault are almost impossible to determine. However, we do know it affects at least one in five girls and more than one in 10 boys.
On average it takes 12 years for women to disclose for the first time that they were sexually assaulted. Men usually take 30 years. These are astounding figures and it is events like reclaim the night that can help make people feel safe and not keep inside of them something that will so strongly impact on the rest of their life. It is the goal of reclaim the night to change community attitudes towards sexual assault through education, prevention and working to improve systems.
I encourage everyone to get involved in these events and, most importantly, to be part of the change in public attitude. Show support for the people in your life who may have faced sexual assault situations. Be a supportive figure that those in your life can come to and feel safe to share their stories with you, without fear or judgement.