January 7, 2013 • In web :: Features
Take Back the Night
Activist and couselor deborah singh discusses this global march and its herstory in Toronto.
Continued from page 1
TBTN 2012: The Story of the Theme
This year, the event focused on the issues surrounding the mental health system in Ontario and survivors of sexual violence who have been impacted by the mental health system. The write up for this year’s event reads:
“Un-Occupying Our Minds, Healing Ourselves”. This year’s theme speaks to our experiences as survivors of sexual violence in the mental health system, the medicalization of our experiences of survivorship, the stigma attached to diagnosis, and the (over)use of mental health ‘treatments’ such as drug therapies, electroshock and psychiatric incarceration.
How we at the centre, [TRCC/MWAR], as activists and community organizers, came to this place was multi-fold, as is every conversation about what theme we should highlight and what the location should be. Our reflections around what is happening in the world of counseling were and remain clear: more and more survivors on the waiting list at the centre had already found a psychiatrist by the time a counsellor could connect with them,. Many women we were seeing were already on a prescription related to their mental health and more folks were annoyed with the medical care and treatments provided by the current mental health model--and were complaining to us about their psychiatrists! In fact, TRCC/MWAR made a connection between the closures of feminist counseling centres and the increased funding to places like Centre for Mental Health and Addictions (CAMH).
Issues of mental health, violence and survivorship need to be raised now more than ever. Consider that in the last two years the Sudbury Rape Crisis Centre closed its doors and the Women’s Counseling and Referral Education Centre (WCREC) fell victim to an impromptu closure it has since reopened). WCREC is a resource not only for survivors, but for the city of Toronto, especially those of us who work with survivors--which, sadly, is pretty much everyone. Further, WCREC is a leader when it comes to supporting other organizations working to put a stop to violence against women.
Our analysis was this: if WCREC could close its doors due to a perceived lack of need determined by government officials, then more and more of (anti-violence non profit organizations) could be deemed not necessary. Further, we saw tens of millions of dollars by corporations and individual donors alike being funneled to CAMH, creating a culture of psychiatry, drug therapy, and increasingly pathologized survivors of sexual violence, queer and poor people.
This is not the solution and is a disturbing trend. While the TRCC/MWAR has, with survivors, co-created the use of a peer-based, survivor-led model as the basis of the counseling we provide, this approach to counseling was being de-funded. Moreover, the psychiatric model dis-empowers women and trans people, and simultaneously negates our work as peer-based, feminist counselors.
These issues faced by survivors of the psychiatric system and the slow and steady disappearance of feminist peer counseling were deciding factors with regards to the 2012 TBTN theme. This year’s event included many speakers and performers who spoke to the experience of the mental health system, like the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assaults and the Friendly Spike Theatre (pictured above). We also included groups with whom we sought to collaborate and join movements with, including SlutWalk organizers and Indigenous women around issues of land and decolonization--we see sexual violence and decolonization as inseparable tools of oppression.