Born in Canada, my childhood was largely in Montreal where I now have returned. In between, I have lived in and visited many other parts of Canada, traveled to many parts of the world, and lived in the woods doing organic farming and gathering my energy to continue what is most important to me: working to end violence against women.
I am the second child of six, the one girl. My parents held equal expectations and encouragement for us all, which I appreciated early on as I realized that this was not so in the larger world. I ran away from strangers in the park, and strangers who pulled up in cars beside me on the road, to expose themselves. I resented having to wear a shirt in the summer, and to not be allowed to wander in the outlying meadows with my girlfriends. I fought to be equally considered with men for work I could do better than them. I learned early to walk home at night with my keys between my fingers like a weapon, just in case. I am fortunate to have been able to fight off more than one attempted rape. I knew as a young woman that I did not want to be married, despite proposals by gentle men. I was aware of the luxury of that choice, even though it seemed such a simple and basic human right. My deepest relationships have been with women, intellectual, social, political, and magically sometimes, romantic.
In 1969, a few of us started one of the first women’s centres in Montreal. It grew rapidly. There were no battered women’s shelters, no rape crisis shelters. We began to speak out about the numbers of women leaving violent relationships, being refused work, facing countless roadblocks to safety, and of the number of women being raped and killed. We began to find each other across the country, and found ways to travel and meet, to set up safe houses and centres where women could find support. The press media was largely nasty, especially in the '80’s when we were speaking out about the amount of incest being forced on children. We were being aggressively discredited as being “anti men” for saying such awful things. There was a failed attempt to fire me from what then was national work creating a safe road back into the community, for women who were in prison. I heard their stories, too. I spoke often publicly, and opened a healing centre for women, determined that as help for women was becoming more formalized and publicly accepted, that safe, free community assistance still needed to be offered, in the volunteer style that had always been offered through those first women’s centres. I have crossed Canada this past summer, meeting women working in what now is such a strong interconnection of women’s centres, rape crisis centres, transition houses. The pain is in the reality that this many years later, we need them more than ever. Three women were murdered just yesterday, not far from where I live.
I had long known that violence against girls and women existed everywhere, and I longed to be able to find my sisters globally. I travelled in India in 1979, looking, having heard of women gathering there, but I couldn’t find these sisters. Now there is WorldPulse. Here we are meeting as fast as we have time to be on this site. I race back to my computer whenever I can. I celebrate each new sister I meet. I celebrate my deepening relationships with many of you. I celebrate the stories of all of the meetings, the strategizing, the groups forming, the support from brothers, the emergence of all this. For me, this journey is getting long. I expected there to be no more violence against women - any women - a long time ago. Now I believe that we are strong enough together to make this happen.