Less than a month after the Take Back the Night rally and march and the Take Back the Block parties sought to re-establish a sense of community and safety to the Toronto neighbourhoods hit hardest by a recent string of sexual assaults, residents once again gathered to protest the rise in incidents of sexual violence.
Friday’s rally in Christie Pits was held in response to three more sexual assaults that were reported in the area over the Thanksgiving weekend. Two of the assaults took place near Montrose Avenue and College Street [PDF], and a third attack happened at Bloor and Grace Streets [PDF]. In all three assaults, women were approached from behind and attacked while walking down residential streets at night.
Officers have increased their patrols in the area, but residents have criticized the Toronto Police Services for a lack of transparency about the circumstances of the attacks as well as their plans for catching the culprit. It is believed that the same assailant who committed the Thanksgiving attacks may have been responsible for many more incidents that occurred in the neighbourhood throughout the summer.
In addition to stepped-up police patrols, grassroots efforts are working to ensure women feel safe and secure in their neighbourhoods. Community organizer Stephanie Guthrie is using the #TBTB hashtag to connect women with jogging and dog-walking buddies, and area councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) has been working with City staff to ensure that a postering campaign can proceed without having signs taken down.
While the response from the community has been a source of solace and reassurance to those affected by the recent sexual assaults, this rally also made it clear that the local community considers both the attacks and the fact that the perpetrator has yet to be caught completely unacceptable. Women have the right to walk down any Toronto street unaccompanied and without fear.