Members of the Illawarra community gathered at Andrew Lysaght Park on October 27 for Reclaim the Night.
The annual peaceful protest aims to raise awareness around sexual, domestic and family violence, and to commemorate the lives of those lost to such violence.
The protest assembled at 6.45pm, where organisers from Women Illawarra gave an empowering speech declaring that, “Everyone has the right to be free from violence”.
They marked a victory — ten days of paid domestic violence leave had become law, after 10 years of campaigning.
Following the speech, protesters marched, chanting “No to silence, stop the violence!”, and “Make it right, reclaim the night!”.
The protestors walked from the park to the Flagstaff Point lighthouse, which was lit up in purple — the colour symbolising women’s empowerment.
There the crowd heard more speeches from the organisers and others. Circus WOW then performed two emotionally-charged pieces, “The Silence We Carry”, and “The Anger I Hold”, that depicted the stories of survivors and their lingering anger and grief.
Later, 38 lit candles were placed on a purple cloth, each honouring one of the 38 women who lost their lives to domestic and family violence in the past year.
The night ended with organisers urging those in need of support to seek help, referring to the multiple services in attendance, such as the lllawarra Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service and Relationships Australia.
“You are not alone, and the shame you feel is not your burden to bear. Please reach out to those around you. And if not to share, please lend an ear.”
Reclaim the Night sought to remind women and others that you are never alone. That if you reach out your hand, there will be a community of survivors, services, and family and friends, who will be there to grasp it.