What we are creating is an organizing centre for women. Women will be able to support each other, educate each other with the stories of their lives, and move into action. Our office is already beginning to look like a transition house. On any given day yo will find kids, dogs, telephones ringing, the typewriters flying and women – all kinds of women. But it’s not enough just to hear stories.
To end our oppression, we need to join together and fight back collectively. All women need the women’s movement. Therefore, the movement must be accessible – to all women.
Throughout the years, organizers in Vancouver have refused to ask for a mandatory city permit to demonstrate. In fact, we see it as a contradiction in terms. Why would we ask male authorities for a permit to demonstrate when it is their behavior we are protesting? Every TBTN is an illegal action.
We were there for each other, for women who called, of all ages and situations.
We met women in their apartments and rooms and homes. We talked and supported, and cried and laughed. We helped to find women safe places to stay. We were advocates and went with women to emergency wards, to police, to courts. We spoke, wrote letters, pressed for legal changes. We spoke at schools, on radio on women’s T V shows. We linked up with other rape crisis centers – and became a network. We supported the work towards a transition house for women. And always women supporting women.
What probably has not changed is that working at Rape Relief exposes you to so many different women…. Underlining the fact that sexual assault does not show preference to class, physical appearance, religion, economics or lifestyle. While many of the women I met lived lives completely foreign to my own, it was not difficult to find shared experiences almost at once.
In the earliest days, Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR) operated with only a phone line, posters to promote Canada’s first rape crisis line, and a small group of women determined to gather many others to learn about male violence from one another and work together to end men’s violence against women.
Women who called the rape crisis line also needed a place to escape from the violent assaults committed by their abusive partners, husbands and fathers. Our collective created the House Funding Committee (now known as The Friends of Rape Relief) to raise funds for the down payment on a transition house.
Community support was essential from the beginning and there are a variety of supportive communities. By the fall of 1981, a down payment had been raised and placed on a house in East Vancouver, through a series of fundraising activities, including the Walk for Rape Relief, a pledge drive, bottle drives, dances, and women contributing a portion of their own salaries.