In the Blog
Take Back the Night 2014
Illustration: Erin McPhee
This month’s entry is the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape’s speech for this past September’s Take Back the Night (takebackthenightoronto.com) event. This year’s theme was Decolonizing Feminism Globally: From Turtle Island to Palestine. Our intention this year was to make connections between how violence is used by the state, worldwide, in Canada and beyond. Sexual violence, in particular, has been used against Indigenous women across the world as a tool of war and colonization. This year’s Take Back the Night event further highlighted the importance of seeing our survivor selves as settlers who are part of this ongoing colonization. This year’s event was a challenge and call to all event participants. Take Back the Night has a history of linking our experiences of interpersonal violence to peoples’ experiences of the state committing violence against us.
Check it out!
Take Back the Night @ the 519 Community Centre Saturday September 20, 2014 at 6:30pm
My name is deb and I am Counselor and Activist at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape.
In its 34th year in Toronto, Take Back the Night celebrates our resilience as survivors of sexual violence. It acknowledges that violence against women and trans people is real; that we are here and that even in 2014, it still happens to us, on the streets, in our homes, by people we know: partners, family members, so-called friends.
But violence against women and trans people, in its systematic use is not just interpersonal. It has been, and continues to be, used by the state to control people through colonization, war and systemic oppression. Decolonizing Feminism Globally: From Turtle Island to Palestine is a huge endeavor. I think all of us in the crowd tonight can see link between the state’s use of violence and the rape and sexual assault of women. The state has used these tools of war for the purposes of acquiring land.
It is not news, this link between rape and colonization of Indigenous land on Turtle Island. It has been part of the ongoing theft of this land by settlers 500 years ago and now, to this day. It is clear that in order for the capitalist system to be maintained, we as settlers must steal this land from Indigenous peoples and use the Earth’s resources to produce more than we need Further, rape and violence has been and continues to be repeatedly used to mark ‘territory,’ whether it is physical land or an Indigenous woman’s body; as a way to shame and debilitate Indigenous communities during colonial war. Rape is an easy and cheap way to control and instill fear in communities at large, debilitating families through rape’s use of shame.
We know the fight for land continues around the globe, when in fact there should be no fight at all. Land does not begin with ownership; only countries that run on a capitalist model succumb to this thinking. We know this is happening in similar ways in Palestine. Violence, war, and civilian casualties continue to grow every day. The war sieged against Palestine by Israel remains over the issues of mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control over settlements and the right to return for Palestinian refugees. Merely speaking to these issues barely encompasses the violence that is happening on the ground there.
Most recently, I read a blog about a banner that was put up in Or Yehuda, in Israel’s coastal region. The City Council put up this banner in support of Israeli soldiers. Quoting the blog: “The display included language suggesting the rape of Palestinian women. The text of the banner read: ‘Israeli soldiers, the residents of Or Yehuda are with you! Pound ‘their mother and come back home safely to your mother’.” The banner’s message insinuated the violation of Palestinian women. According to this blog it was one of many instances where the Israeli government encouraged soldiers to use rape and tap into the widespread rape culture in Israel to target Palestinian women.
How does this connect to us at Take Back the Night Toronto? Simply, we cannot only think about sexual violence as one person raping another. We must think about a history of violence against Turtle Island’s first people as the birth of state sanctioned violence. Thus, sexual violence is a tool of the state, of genocide and of war.
This violence happens in the face of race and gender identity of women – is in this case of Indigenous and Palestinian women, but also Black women and women of colour. Our friend Andrea Smith reminds us that, “The issues of colonial, race and gender oppression cannot be separated.” When an Indigenous woman is abused it is an attack on her identity as woman and as Native. And we cannot separate the two.
Decolonizing feminism itself is another tall order but I challenge each and every survivor out there to think about your survivorship beyond your own experience of violence and see the connections between borders and our bodies. One of the ways we can decolonize feminism is as Paulette Regan states: ethical witnessing*. We can remember we are complicit in the violence against Indigenous communities on Turtle Island and we can bear witness to their stories and rememberings of the violence they experienced at the hand of the state.
Thank you everyone for being part of another Take Back the Night Toronto. In our attempt to decolonize feminism, we can begin to truly centralize the experiences and voices of Indigenous communities, from Turtle Island to Palestine.
*Paulette Regan: Unsettling the Settler Within Ethical witnessing: That victims and perpetrators in truth telling is not enough, bystanders need to witness and see themselves as not innocent but complicit