Rules: Challenging Traditional
by Nadya Burton
Opposition is not enough. In that vacant space after one has resisted there is still the necessity to become - to make oneself anew. - bell hooks
I've been involved with the Montreal Assault Prevention Centre for over two years and it's still strange to me that people gloss over the word prevention in our name, regularly confusing us with the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre. It is as though, hearing the word assault, people automatically think "crisis centre," "counseling." Often they murmur sympathetically, "Oh, that must be such difficult work, dealing with people who have been assaulted all day; counseling is so admirable." And so it is. But I am ever amazed that the word prevention has no impact, seems to disappear, remain silent.
It is precisely this not so little word - prevention - which defines our work and informs all our ideas and approaches to assault. It is because of this word, this not so simple idea, that I was drawn to work here. The Montreal Assault Prevention Centre does precisely that, attempts to prevent assault. We offer unique prevention programs for many groups who are particularly vulnerable: women, children, elderly people, those with intellectual or physical disabilities.
Assault prevention is a radical idea. I worked for years in a rape crisis centre, helping women heal from the painful trauma of assault - everything from street harassment to ongoing incest and rape. Looking back, I see that besides being empathetic, caring, informed listeners, helping women break the incredible wall of silence which surrounds I victims of violence, we were trying to educate, to generate change. We tried to impart to women that what happened to them was not personal, but political; that violence is part of a system where men regularly and easily assault women and children. What is radical, about rape crisis centers is the fervent belief that if only we could expose the truth - that men have power and women are victimized by the misuse of that power - then the whole patriarchal system we call society would have to change. If only we could get everyone to see the world as it is, a revolution would be inevitable.