WALKING along Newcastle’s Foreshore in her underwear and covered in the ugly phrases that had been hurled at the women surrounding her, Bel Jones felt liberated.
“I was scared to start with, but I’m safe tonight and honoured to be trusted with these words,” Ms Jones said.
She had arrived early for Newcastle Domestic Violence Committee’s Reclaim The Night march, which attracted about 200 women who walked, chanting, from the former Maritime Museum to Customs House on Friday.
Along with 95 Reclaim The Run participants, they were showing their opposition to violence against women and demanding the right to use public spaces, wearing whatever they choose, without fear.
“I said, ‘If you give me the words that make you feel small and scared I will wear them with pride’,” Ms Jones said.
“When a woman gives you all her pain to carry for her, how can you do anything else?”
Across her chest, stomach, back, arms and legs women had used textas to write phrases including ‘Whore’, ‘Why don’t you smile?’, ‘You don’t get to change your mind’, ‘You know you want it slut’, ‘You’re asking for it wearing that’, 'You are nothing’, ‘Stop being a tease’, ‘No-one will believe you’ and ‘You wanted it last time’.
One woman stopped seconds before the march began to write ‘Power goddess’ on Ms Jones’ neck.
“It’s gut wrenching,” she said.
“These things are not okay to say to anyone.
“There have been tears and hugs.
“For a couple of women this is their letting go. I feel so liberated.”
Ms Jones said she realised using her body was “extreme”.
“But rape and murder are extreme acts,” she said.
“If putting myself out there is what it takes to get people talking, it’s worth it.”
Rachel Bond held a pink sign explaining she was marching for the 57 women murdered in 2018, her friend who was too scared to march due to violence, the one in three women who will be raped or beaten within her lifetime, as well as her right to be safe.
“We don’t want someone to wear a pin one day a year, we want actual progress,” she said.
“People get attacked by sharks and men punch each other outside nightclubs and they receive more attention than the one woman who is murdered each week [by her current or former partner].”
Abbey Seaton held a sign that said ‘Sexual assault does not define me #metoo’.
“Everything I do I feel scared all the time, but I knew I had to come here and help raise awareness. I want to tell girls they are not alone.”
Erin Ayscough and Amelia Young held a sign ‘Girls just want to have fundamental rights’ and said they didn’t want the next generation of women to face violence.
“I actually asked ‘Are we going to be okay going back to the car afterwards?’ and didn’t even think about it,” Amelia said.
“It was sad and ironic.”
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