Testimony of Hilla Kerner -- Vancouver Rape Relief

(Women-only spaces) has two elements: its a sepratist strategy, a strategy of the oppressed to organize.  The consciousness-raising practice that the womens' movement have been using since the second wave has been taken from the black liberation movement and the concept of "telling it like it is".  And we see it now in the Palestinian Liberation Movement.  So having the space when the oppressed can meet without the gaze, the rules, the controls, the intervention of the oppressor is very, very important to women who are doing organizing around liberation.  

When it comes to male violence against women, women have been victims from a person who belongs to that oppressive class of men, of someone who is male.  So being in a female-only space is an immediate safety strategy, for both her physical boundaries and her emotional well-being.  

what we hear from other women who call our crisis line from shelters, from swimming pools, these are mainly the places that women reported to us, that they felt threatened, they felt violated.  It was not a subjective feeling.  Those men were invasive, we know that men are exposing their gentials in swimming pools.  So women called us after they were forced to share a room in a women's homeless shelter.  Sometimes they had lots of empathy for that person.  But its not a woman from their experience.  They had to move out.  They were not comfortable.  They could not have recuperated nd be comforted and supported and feel safe having someone who was not born female in their space.  

people who claim to be trans activists, and I using the term claim because I do not think they are doing trans people or the trans community any justice, and any service, using it to mobilize against women's groups and women's organizations.  So the social implications, the cultural permission to attack feminists.  That is the real price of the (C-16) bill.  

Some of the most common tactics that the abuser has on women, individual women victims is: isolation, taking any element of autonomy.  So we definately see that attempt, of undermining our economic independence.  I think that the backlash against us is a very effective warning to other women's groups not to take this position, not to connect with us.  The boycotting is a very good example for limiting our association.  Yes, silencing and isolating are very very similar tactics.  Its also very very common in incest, if the silencing is not working and the isolation is not working, then there is the element of discrediting.  I think that is definatley being done to us, undermining our authority and our expertiseand alot of time, the attacker lies about what the victim did.  And that is true for us.  There is constant misrepresentation of our position, not just about that, but about women in prostitution  .   .   .  so the discrediting the victim is very consistent with lying about who we are.  There are all kinds of "false testimonies" about women who we did not serve,  .  .  .  they are actively lying about our front line work.   .  .  .  

The attacker can do what he does to women and to girls because society either acting as a passive bystander or supporting the attacker.   .  .  .  so the silence is allowing them to be more effective.  But the really they are bullies, they are very effective bullies, and the crazy irony that they are looked at for protecting the oppresses is just mind boggling.  

We think that reality will prevail.  It will take time and it will take alot of courage because the silencing is very very effective.  



Hilla Kerner is a member of the Vancouver Rape Relief Collective, responsible for their public education efforts. 

Kerner is the public education director of Vancouver Rape Relief, which works with women victimized by male violence. It has been in operation since 1973. Since 1995, it has had a written female-only policy for clients and volunteers, because its understanding is that the shared experience of females, from birth, is crucial to helping victims. Women need to meet "without the gaze, the control, and intervention by the oppressor." In a backlash against the female-only policy, and under pressure from the trans lobby, the city of Vancouver in 2020 ended its support for Vancouver Rape Relief. Women have been unable to speak out for fear for their employment, and "Die TERF" graffitti were posted on the door of the center.