In this guest post, Sian Norris urges Bristol readers to Reclaim the Night this 20 February
Bristol Feminist Network started up with the aim of creating a space for women and men to come together to discuss feminist issues and organise feminist activism. Reclaim the Night was something we had hoped to organise for a long time and, in the wake of a series of sex attacks in the city, we felt that it was the right time.
The attacks in Bristol were reported in the news in ways that are typical of the media response to rape. Women were warned to walk in well lit areas, not walk alone and not walk late at night. In short, women’s freedoms were curtailed and women were told to be afraid of the streets they live in, due to the actions of the “Bristol Groper”.
It quickly became apparent how important a Reclaim the Night march was for Bristol. The last march was in 2003, and it was time to start making a noise about this issue again. A planning meeting was set up, to try and make all the key decisions for the running of the night.
After a very thorough discussion, BFN decided that it was important that men came to the march, and that there was an all-female section leading. We strongly believed in the importance of the woman-only space, and felt that by having the women-only contingent lead the march, it would avoid the impression that women were being escorted. However, we also felt that having a mixed march was equally as important. Although the march is about violence against women, we felt it was vital to express how this issue affects women and men. In order to stop violence against women we need men to step up alongside women.
Once the planning got underway, all of us at BFN were thrilled by the incredible enthusiasm and generosity that met us. With hosts of people signing up to do jobs from flyering to police liaising, we also received support and donations from the Bristol Women’s Forum and Bristol Fawcett Society. We have received kindness and help from a wide range of organisations as diverse as the local universities, Victim Support and Bristol Indymedia. The help and support of all the volunteers and community groups for Reclaim the Night has been invaluable.
Violence against women is an issue that affects every woman – whether as a direct experience or not. All women live in the shadow of violence, from rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, to trafficking, prostitution and poverty, to the increase in pornographic and sexualised images in our everyday lives. All of these elements inform an atmosphere of violence and allows for a culture where violence against women is not taken seriously, is not reported accurately and where the crimes are laid at the feet of the women who have experienced violence, not the perpetrators.
Bristol Reclaim the Night has three clear aims. We are calling for:
Secure long-term funding for the Bristol Rape Crisis Centre
Delivery of the SRE sexual violence and consent modules in our schools
Initiatives to increase the 4.2% conviction rate of rapists
Reclaim the Night Bristol will happen on the 20th February. The vigil begins at 6pm on College Green, before the march heads out at 7pm, and reaching the Trinity Centre at 8pm, for talks and music.