Photo: METRAC’s Executive Director and Board Co-President at May Be Me celebration event, May 31, 2014 (credit: Reza Vaziri, Rezalution Photography)
Thirty years ago, the City of Toronto was faced by a string of sexual assaults in parks. “Don’t go out alone at night”, some people responded to women. They told women to guard themselves, manage the risk of rape and “try not to be victims”. Women were targeted in public spaces, but little attention was placed on perpetrators and the conditions that made women afraid and at risk in the first place.
That’s the impetus behind the “Toronto Pink Ribbon Committee”, an early incarnation of what METRAC is today. Those changemakers who came together knew a better response to violence against women was possible. Instead of telling women to hold keys like weapons on their way to their cars, why not create bylaws to make parking garages brighter and more secure? Instead of telling women to avoid eye contact on public transit, why not establish safety measures like Designated Waiting Areas? Instead of accepting flawed legal processes as a given, why not change the legal system to better deal with sexual assault and domestic abuse?
It’s this breakthrough thinking that founded METRAC in 1984 and continues to drives us to change ideas, actions and policies to prevent violence. We still challenge the notion that feeling unsafe is a normal state of affairs for anyone, especially women and youth. We still work to improve laws and policies and we still help people work toward violence-free communities. We’re proud of how far we’ve come – from Pink Ribbons to a local Action Committee to a boundary-breaking organization with reach right across our city, province, country and globe.
And we owe it all to our organizational founders, community partners, an ever-strong team and a host of allies, advocates and donors like you. For METRAC, 2014 stands as a milestone year of celebration, but it’s also a moment of gratitude. To those who have supported us over our three decades, of every background, ability and identity, of all skills and passions and life experiences, we want you to know that your mandate and vision remains our mandate and vision.
Things have changed for the better but we still need to do more. Women are still at high risk of sexual and physical violence, especially young women, and still face blame and isolation when they are victimized. Youth on the whole, as well as other communities of people, remain vulnerable to higher rates of abuse, harassment and fear. The way we live, work and think still need to change and METRAC continues to be relevant in the struggle to achieve freedom from violence.
Let’s continue to work together to make our world safer, more just and equitable for women, youth and everyone.