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events

Taking Safety Back

Take Back the Night and Take Back the Block attempt to replace fear and violence with community, celebration, and support.

Take Back the Night
Masaryk Cowan Community Recreation Centre (220 Cowan Avenue)
Saturday, September 15
4 p.m. Community Fair
6 p.m. Rally
8 p.m. March: cisgendered women, trans women, trans men, and children welcome to participate; cisgendered men encouraged to support from the sidelines.

For the 32nd year in a row, the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre is hosting a Take Back the Night march on Saturday—one that is resonating more than usual in Toronto, in the wake of a string of sexual assaults that has been rocking a central part of the city.

Earlier this summer a series of sexual assaults in the Bloor-Christie neighbourhood [PDF] prompted the Toronto Police Service to hold a public safety news conference; several women have also been assaulted in the Bloor and Crawford area [PDF]. While these clusters of attacks have caused the most alarm, many others have also been reported in the last month. (A full list of them is below.)

Statistically, that’s not a spike. According to TPS media officer Wendy Drummond incidents of sexual assault are actually down this year, though their high concentration in the Bloor-Christie area, and the number of public assaults, is what makes recent events unusual.

And that, say supporters, is why Take Back the Night is so important. Sexual assaults are still disturbingly frequent, a persistent aspect of life in the city. TBTN serves as a rallying point, as the public looks for ways to respond to the sexual violence, to make our streets and communities safer—now, and when the headlines calm down again, as they inevitably will.

Poster by Kristin Foster

This year, community members are also reaching beyond the purview of the traditional Take Back the Night march and have created a new extension of the event: Take Back the Block. Consisting of two block parties—one on the Ryerson campus at the Pitman Hall Quad, the other in Kensington Market at Bellevue Square Park—TBTB will feature live music (provided by Patti Cake and and Simon Borer of Entire Cities respectively), and attempt to create a celebratory atmosphere in areas where several of the reported assaults took place. Both block parties start at 9 p.m., just as the Take Back the Night march is scheduled to conclude.

Take Back the Block was created and planned by three community members: freelance journalist and writer Kasia Mychajlowycz, self-described “strident literary feminist” Heather Cromarty, and community organizer and communications professional Stephanie Guthrie. Cromarty told us that that “originally my idea was just to gather some of my friends together to go to Take Back the Night. It seems like this year, more than in recent memory, the message of Take Back the Night was important: that women have the right to live without fear. However, as more and more assaults began to be reported, I wanted to do something in and around the neighbourhoods that had been directly affected.”

All three organizers have personal connections to the neighbourhoods hit hardest by the sexual assaults, and wanted to do something specifically to uplift those communities, while also making them safer through public engagement. Mychajlowycz explains: “I live in the Annex, I just finished my master’s at Ryerson, I love shopping and eating in Kensington Market—these assaults hit home for me because they were happening right where I walk every day, many nights, and often alone… I wanted to feel like I had the power to do something.” (You can follow conversations about Take Back the Block, and a growing, broader discussion about assault and harassment, with the hasthag #TBTB on Twitter.)

The three credit a virtual army of supporters and volunteers, Take Back the Night organizers, councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Adam Vaughan, Ryerson University, the Ryerson Centre for Women and Trans People, and councillor Mike Layton’s office for helping get Take Back the Block organized on a compressed schedule.

While the Take Back the Night march itself is open to anyone but cisgendered men, who are encouraged to express their support from the sidelines, the Take Back the Block parties welcome “absolutely everyone.” Guthrie says participants should look forward to the opportunity to “meet other members of their community, make new friends, enjoy some music, and learn a few simple strategies for making more active use of the public space in their community, thus making the space safer for women—or anyone.”


Public Sexual Assaults in Toronto
A complete list of public sexual assaults that were reported to the Toronto Police Service in the last month. This list does not include domestic assaults.

  • On July 31, a woman was assaulted on a TTC bus heading north on Islington [PDF].
  • On August 4, a man lured a woman to his home promising to teach her English, forcibly confined and sexually assaulted her. Also, a man followed a woman into an apartment building at Queen East and Serbourne and sexually assaulted her in a stairwell [PDF].
  • On August 7, a woman was sexually assaulted after exiting a bus at Kipling and Holywell [PDF]. Thomas Reardon was identitied as wanted for three sexual assaults in various locations throughout the city, all committed in late August [PDF].
  • On August 13, a woman was placed in a headlock, choked, and assaulted at Markham and Eglinton [PDF].
  • On August 19, a man fled in a taxi after assaulting a woman in Kensington market [PDF].
  • On August 21, a teen boy was assaulted in one of the bathrooms at the Exhibition grounds [PDF].
  • On August 24, a woman was sexually assaulted in a laundromat at Queen Street East and Greenwood [PDF]; a man fled on a bike after assaulting a woman at Gerrard Street East and Parliament [PDF]; and a woman was taken from Bloor and Bathurst to Spadina and Dupont and sexually assaulted [PDF].
  • On August 27, a man pretending to be an immigration officer lured a woman to a hotel room, assaulted her, and attempted extortion [PDF]; a man broke into a woman’s ground floor apartment and sexually assaulted her [PDF]; and a woman was sexually assaulted at gunpoint at Martin Grove Road and Jeffcoat Road. [PDF]
  • On August 28, a 16-year-old girl was sexually assaulted at Barton and Palmerston [PDF].
  • On August 29, a man walked up behind and sexually assaulted a woman at Grace and Bloor [PDF].
  • On August 30, at King and Dufferin a man broke into a woman’s home while she slept and sexually assaulted her. [PDF]
  • On August 31, a woman was sexually assaulted while crossing the West Humber Trail bridge [PDF].
  • On September 1, a woman was assaulted while walking on the pathway from Mornelle Court to Military Trail. TPS also announced that Robert St. Pierre is wanted for a sexual assault in the Walmer Road/Lowther Avenue area that occurred on September 4 [PDF]. On the same day a woman was assaulted twice by the same man: once at Church Street and Gerrard East, and again at Mutual and Gould [PDF].
  • On September 5, a man sexually assaulted a woman and attempted to drag her into an alley in the Warden/ Brindletown Circle area.
  • On September 6, Francisco Villanueva was charged with sexually assaulting two women on the TTC [PDF].
  • On September 7, a York University student was followed home and sexually assaulted after a birthday party [PDF]. Late that night a man broke into two homes and sexually assaulted the elderly occupants, and attempted to gain entry to a third home [PDF].
  • On September 10, a woman was sexually assaulted at Gould and Bond [PDF].
  • On September 11, a woman reported that she discovered a man filming her from her second story window [PDF].
  • On September 12, two men sexually assaulted a woman while she was waiting for the bus at Sheppard Avenue East and McCowan Road [PDF].
  • On the evening of September 13, a woman was hit from behind and sexually assaulted while walking her dogs in Reesor Park, at Reesor and Steeles [PDF].

Kelli Korducki contributed reporting.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Please note that the August 19 assault took place in the Kensington Market area but not in Kensington Market per se, as is stated in the police report PDF.

  • Friar Canuck

    Wait, wait, wait….so as a heterosexual male, I’m not allowed to participate? Why? Do they think every heterosexual male is behind the sexual assaults? “It’s OK you’re here, but sit over here and don’t say anything.”

    Great attitude there. Trust me. You’re not take back the night from me. I never had it.

    • Finch

      I’m a woman, and I completely agree with you Friar. I’m actually appalled by this kind of discrimination. This wouldn’t be acceptable if it were the other way around (men only). I understand the idea of this march, but overall, encouraging separation by gender, race, demographic.. etc. will never solve anything.
      I’m sure there are men affected by the attacks on their family members/friends/etc. and would love to support the cause. Not letting them participate paints a pretty hostile picture.

    • bookgal

      I’m on the fence about it to be honest, but I think the idea being not that all cisgendered men are the problem, but that women are often told to have a man walk them home in order to ensure their safety. To walk without a chaperone seems to be the idea; that cisgendered men are encouraged to offer support but not march, leaving the marching for those who traditionally have been told to not travel at night.

  • a guy from toronto

    Friar…

    I spoke with the organizers and after initially expressing similar sentiments, I began to sympathize. There are the Take Back the Block parties (not the same event as Take Back the Night, although I think they’re associated) which everyone can attend.

    Maybe, just today, let the women have their march. There are women out there who do nasty things, but the stats show that there are far more men committing violence against women. No denying that. Let them have their night to shine, dude!

    • Anonymous

      They can’t simultaneously advocate things like “stop rape culture” and then exclude men from rape-culture-stopping activities and expect anything to change.

      Also, you’re being a bit patronizing to the women.

      • bookgal

        Men are not excluded, as I understand it, they’ve been asked to take a different role than the marchers, one of support.

        The thinking, perhaps, being that men walking women around after dark is often suggested as a solution to women being sexually assaulted and not to follow that arrangement in the march as well.

        • Anonymous

          Being sidelined is being excluded and, one might argue, collectively blamed for the actions of individuals.

          Another assault-avoidance strategy women are told to adopt is to travel in groups in well-lit areas, so if the above defiance is really the motivation behind excluding men, then it follows that these women should be marching solo down dark side streets, alleyways and parking lots.

          • Anonymous

            As a woman, I see it this way too.

            I would argue that the inclusion of men is more important then ever, in fact it’s that type of unity that will be the crux of solving this or at the very least educating the low-hanging fruit (no pun intended) – unless we’re talking about fem-separation, which is a totally different and f’d up issue on it’s own.

  • Anonymous

    I find the use of the term “cisgendered” offensive. We heterosexuals would prefer to be called heterosexual. Use of the term “cisgendered” betrays an unconcious sense of privilege and insensitivity on the part of those who employ it. Please keep this in mind for future articles now that you’ve been made aware. Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      Homosexuals are also “cis” as I understand it – gender, sexual orientation, and the genitalia one sports at birth all being distinct things.

      I also think it’s a ridiculous term to be using.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zachary.viggiani Zachary Viggiani

    Quite crazy came home with my dog to a huge group of angry people yelling and closing down my quiet family street here with no warning. Although I get the march why have it down the middle of quiet neighbourhood streets ?

  • Anonymous

    “While the Take Back the Night march itself is open to anyone but cisgendered men”

    “Take Back the Block parties welcome “absolutely everyone.””

    Is the first comment editorial or some sort of quotable? It would seem that the organizer is either saying the opposite of the writer, or one of them is very confused at how the English language works.

  • Anonymous

    “open to anyone but cisgendered men”

    Oh shit, I better make sure my friends bring their International Association of Gay Men membership cards to prove it!

    • lala

      Read it correctly before getting angry!
      It doesn’t say that cisgendered men are not allowed – they are!!! – they
      just participate on the side, STILL MARCHING alongside everyone else.

      • lala

        Every Take Back The Night event I’ve been too lots of men participate.

        • Anonymous

          Be that as it may, that’s not what this article refers. If that’s not the case (as you claim – and I do believe you) then Torontoist really needs to fire/ban this reporter for writing falsehoods surrounding this event. That is my bone of contention with that sentence to which the writer or editorial staff has not defended, which is a bit odd around here, unless there is some truth to it.

      • Anonymous

        “Read it correctly before getting angry!”

        “open to anyone but cisgendered men”

        LOLWUT?!?!?!?!

  • lala

    It doesn’t say that cisgendered men are not allowed – they are – they just participate on the side, STILL MARCHING alongside everyone else.

    • Anonymous

      You can vote, just tell your husband who you want to vote for and maybe he’ll mark the ballot that way

  • Anonymous

    I no longer see this article listed on Torontoist on the date it was published, but Google can still find it.

    • Anonymous

      ??? What do you mean? We haven’t touched it.

      • Anonymous

        Ah. Looks like we have a problem with our indexing – about a dozen posts are missing (everything from the 14th and 15th) from the archive pages. (Also gone: Historicist, a couple of Newsstands, Queen West Art Crawl, a bunch of TIFF reviews, and more.) Tech support has been alerted.

        • Anonymous

          I thought maybe a correction/update was being appended, but when it didn’t return after ~20 minutes I googled.

          • Anonymous

            Should be showing up again normally, along with all the other posts. (Let us know if it isn’t!) Have a note in to the writer, will update once we’ve had a chance to talk. -HD

            (Edit to add: when we append updates or corrections articles don’t go offline; we update the version that’s already been published. In general we don’t unpublish posts even for short periods except in extraordinary circumstances – most often, if coding is breaking the site. In the case of an update, you’d just need to hit reload to see it if you had that post open already.)

  • http://twitter.com/NatalieZed NatalieZed

    Hello everyone, I just wanted to add a little more information to this discussion that might help clarify a few things.

    1) Take Back the Night is an event held and organized by the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, and is in it’s 32nd year; Take Back the Block is an independent event that took place this year for the very first time, planned by other community members with the TRCC’s blessing and support.

    2) the word “cisgender” does not at all refer to sexual orientation (whether someone is straight or gay), but rather one’s gender identity. A cisgender person is someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth: http://queerdictionary.tumblr.com/post/9264228131/cisgender-adj

    3) Here is a statement issued by the TRCC explaining the march and who is welcome to participate. Initially the march was only open to women and children when it was conceived, but recently the TRCC relaxed their guidelines to accomodate transpeople and other groups who expressed an interest in marching. http://www.trccmwar.ca/drupal/node/290

    4) Men are welcome to participate in all other events associated with take back the night, including the rally, and were encouraged to support the march from the sidelines. As an alternative to walking in the actual march itself, the TRCC also ran some excellent White Ribbon Campaign workshops. http://www.whiteribbon.ca/educational_materials/

    I hope this clears up the discussion a bit!