- On Wednesday night, we got a notification on our twitter account that looked like this:
- We hadn't been aware or involved in the conversation and we were going to leave it alone, so as to not jump in without greater understanding and context, until we saw this tweet from Toronto Police:
- We've made public statements about our disappointment and frustration at the response of Toronto Police Services (TPS), or frankly lack thereof, to the public outcry of SlutWalk Toronto and many organizations (and the SlutWalks in other cities that followed) to do better last year.
We've heard on far too many occasions that the infamous "slut" comment from Michael Sanguinetti ("I've been told I'm not supposed to say this, but women shouldn't dress like sluts if they don't want to be raped") was just "one officer" and that the deeply-entrenched victim-blaming and slut-shaming exemplified by his comment is not representative of Toronto Police or their training. Unfortunately, from what we have experienced, from what we have heard and what we continue to hear and experience in our communities, it is.
The ongoing denial of TPS that victim-blaming by police happens over and over is a point of anger so we tweeted back.
- The following 20-30 minutes was a fast and brief interaction between us, interested others, and the Toronto Police twitter with Sgt. Tim Burrows (^tb on his tweets) acting as the public voice for TPS on this exchange. Burrows identified himself later when we asked.
The interaction that followed was frustrating, disappointing, insulting to all survivors of sexual violence and abuse, and was rather interestingly-timed given our upcoming rally and the refusal of The Toronto Police to engage with us publicly on these very same issues around this time last year. The Toronto Police continue not to get it.
- Wait... Did he say rumour or hearsay, referring to the vast amount of resources and accounts of survivors facing victim-blaming by police? Immediately questioning if survivor experiences are "rumour or hearsay" directly calls into question and scrutinizes those experiences. This is the kind of blaming and shaming response survivors experience all too often. This should not have been what the Toronto Police public voice suggested of survivors, especially as the first response. This is a big part of why we began SlutWalk Toronto and it's still clearly something TPS needs to (un)learn.
- When SlutWalk Toronto first began in early 2011, we put effort in to call foul on the Toronto Police and express our anger but engage in dialogue in a productive way where we were open to listening. We requested they publicly respond to our criticisms, especially as they got louder in Toronto. Three specific requests were sent to them asking they commit to better training and education of their officers as well as more outreach to listen to communities experiencing violence and discrimination at the hands of police.
Instead of acknowledging our requests, they gave us a list of their current and ongoing programs. They declined to participate in the public discourse we had wanted and stayed quite silent beyond their initial apology for Sanguinetti's comment and some comments to media that fell quite short of a dialogue or any real community engagement (despite thousands of Torontonians marching to the doorstep of HQ on April 3, 2011). A year later, they were attempting to have a public dialogue with us... over twitter?
- If a voice from TPS is going to engage with us and demonstrate an understanding of who we are, we hope they'd try to listen if they're not knowledgeable of past interactions. If they don't know what has happened, they should try to find out.
- Suggesting that by not going to the police survivors choose to live in fear and ultimately continue to be a victim is insulting. Every person is different and while some find support in reporting their assaults to police some choose not to access the justice system and instead find support elsewhere. Almost every rape crisis centre understands this and TPS needs to as well.