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Take Back the Night rally returns to Barrie's downtown core

Dozens of women march through Barrie's downtown core during the annual Take Back the Night rally on Thurs. May 4, 2023 (Steve Mansbridge/CTV News Barrie) Dozens of women march through Barrie's downtown core during the annual Take Back the Night rally on Thurs. May 4, 2023 (Steve Mansbridge/CTV News Barrie)

Dozens of women from throughout Simcoe County took to Barrie's downtown core streets Thursday night, calling for an end to gender-based violence.

The annual 'Take Back the Night' rally returned to its traditional format for the first time since 2019 after switching to a virtual operation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is meant to raise awareness and send a message to the community that violence against women and gender-diverse individuals is not acceptable.

"It's a really big issue, and I think that we need to keep talking about it," said Haily MacDonald, the acting executive director of Huronia Transition Homes. "We need people to show up to events like this so that they are there and they are showing their community they say no. It's not accepted, violence against women [and] violence against gender-diverse peoples."

The rally typically takes place in the fall but was moved to May to align with Sexual Violence Awareness month. 

Huronia Transition Homes was the host of Thursday's rally. The event started with networking and speeches inside Barrie's City Hall. Participants then marched throughout the downtown core, going down Dunlop Street, a busy thoroughfare in the city.

"We intentionally walk down Dunlop Street because we really want to show people and take up some of the most occupied space in Barrie, some of the busiest space and really put people front and center to showing that they stand in support, in solidarity to not condone or remain silent about gender-based violence," MacDonald said.

According to MacDonald, there were increased levels of violence throughout the pandemic, saying most shelters are full and crisis lines are often inundated with callers.

"I think there was the idea during the pandemic to stay home and stay safe," MacDonald says. "For so many of us, home was or is the most unsafe space. We know that sexual violence is happening the majority of the time from somebody close to us."

Along with Huronia Transition Homes, MacDonald said approximately 18 other community partners were present at Thursday's rally. Huronia Transition Homes offer numerous support services, including Athena's Sexual Assault Counselling Centre, which is available to anyone over the age of 16 who has experienced sexual violence or intimate partner violence.

"Know that it is not your fault," MacDonald said. "It is never your fault if you are experiencing violence and there are resources available in your community."

While supports are available throughout Simcoe County, Macdonald said the goal is to reach a point where the support services are no longer needed. Top Stories

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