i could have been in quebec city
making my stand against the corporate crunch of globalization. But I've decided to stay in T.O. to attend Deb Parent's transition party.
Parent is leaving the Toronto Rape Crisis centre after 20 years working there as a counsellor and public educator. But she's also known in T.O.'s dyke world as the woman on the truck -- the one with the soundtrack inducing women at Take Back The Night demonstrations or Dyke Marches to dance their faces off while they're taking over the streets.
I'm sitting at the 519 Church Community Centre watching the proceedings and getting that throwback feeling, made all the more intense by the knowledge that I'm missing all those cutting-edge demos in la belle province.
Some things simply will not change. There's Parent fixing the sound -- feedback is a feminist issue -- at her own damn party. As for the music, who cares about Destiny's Child's chart-topping I'm A Survivor? It's Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive all the way.
And as usual, the smoking contingent is made up mostly of front-line workers. You can always count on the counsellors -- and the artists -- at these kinds of events to keep the haze in the air.
At the same time, I know that things have changed. The centre now calls itself Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, reflecting the full community, and it's moved a few times. It's no longer in that alienating building on College where a bare light bulb glared at the traumatized women making their way up the stairs. Several relocations later, the centre currently inhabits a huge, open space at Queen and Spadina with, yes, tons of light.
Stranger rape, once assumed to be what happened most, now turns out be a smaller percentage of what the centre copes with. The priority now is groups for adult survivors of childhood incest, with date rape following just behind.
The partiers laugh and cry as they recount their first meetings with Parent and the early movement to end violence against women. Parent was one of the people who figured out that counselling sexual assault survivors
can only be part of the work. Getting females to kick ass is another. So she helped introduce the self-defence art of Wen Do to hundreds as part of the crisis centre's programs.
Personally, I like to think of her as the butch in the bustier.
I try to take in the fact that she worked at the centre for 20 years. Most
crisis workers burn out after just three years of listening to horrifying stories and battling a dinosaur legal system. But the political longevity of the centre is just as stupefying. I'm sure nobody
thought that any of these services, like daycare facilities, abortion clinics or hassle-free medical care -- fragile experiments born out of massive street movements and collectives and long nights of trying to reach consensus -- would last almost three decades.
Not only has the centre persevered, but the anti-violence movement has mushroomed, too.
Where once the TRCC and Vancouver
Rape Relief were the only crisis centres in the country, there are now over 30 in Ontario alone.
In Canada, only four, including the Toronto centre, operate with the collec-
tive vision of their founders. Still, those radical ideas about rape and child sexual abuse and why they happen so often are alive and well: Take Back The Night marches, the all-women's celebrations that bug so many of the boys, are now a
national phenomenon. But the style has changed. These values are promoted right across the country, within organizations that are actually quite conventional, and are even on some school and public health agendas.
The plaid-shirted, pissed-off, mostly under 30 lesbo freaks back in the 70s weren't expected to develop an infrastructure so deep and effective.
We weren't going to make the world safe for women in just 30 years, but now you could almost call rape crisis centres -- can I say the word? -- institutions.
I sit back at my table, nursing my drink bought with those handy liquor tickets they still use at 519 functions, and try to wrap my head around what the bandana-wearing affinity groups of the Quebec protest will create in the decades ahead.
New-media groups? Self-expression therapies? Mass communal eating kitchens? Global networks based on green, anti-racist and fair-trade values?
I may be here at Church and Wellesley while they're there pulling down that wall and choking on tear gas. But my experience tells me not to underestimate what can come from protest fury.