The fifth annual Reclaim the Night event organised by the Northern TUC Women's Group took place in Sunderland City centre on Saturday 24th November. Around a hundred people gathered at Memorial Garden, Sunderland Civic Centre for the short walk through the city centre streets to Mowbray Park. Women, mothers with babies in buggies, toddlers, teenage girls, men and boys joined together to raise awareness of the issue of domestic abuse. Many of the women and young people had been brought to Sunderland by mini buses organised by Wearside Women in Need, a charity which provides advice, support and safe accommodation for women and children experiencing sexual, physical or emotional abuse in the Wearside/Sunderland area.
Spirits were high on arriving at Mowbray Park where the lively group heard from Sharon Hodgson MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Clare Phillipson, Director of Wearside Women in Need who were introduced by Pat Heron, Unison Women's Committee.
In her comments, Sharon acknowledged that some progress had been made in tackling domestic abuse. We now have Claire's Law which gives women the right to ask the police whether a new or existing partner has a violent past and Jane's Law which allows prosecutors to appeal against a crown court judge's bail ruling at the High Court. Unfortunately this comes at a time when cuts are forcing domestic violence refuges to turn victims away. She was however encouraged by the results of the recent Police and Crime Commission elections which saw Labour appointments in Northumbria, Teesside and Durham and welcomed Labour's Five Pledges on tackling violence against women. Violence in all its forms must be stopped. We need to educate girls as well as boys to tackle the culture of violence against women and girls, working with schools local authorities and community-based organisations to change attitudes and behaviour.
Clare Phillipson started with a quotation attributed to the mafia 'Power is never given; it is always taken'. All women should be able to walk in freedom from male violence. These streets belong to us. There are thousands of women who cannot be here tonight because they are dead. There are thousands of brave women who are on the frontline, unarmed, suffering sexual, physical and emotional abuse. This is the world we live in - we must never give up on change.
In her concluding comments Pat thanked everyone who had attended including the musicians for creating such a lively atmosphere and wished all a safe onward journey.
Issued: 26 November, 2012