This International Day Against Police Brutality, we are once again demanding accountability from our police. We expect better from the institution charged with working for our safety. We know the police are the coercive arm of the state on this unceded Coast Salish territory and across Turtle Island, and yet we still expect better from them.
The officers that make up the policing institutions are not in a vacuum, separated out from the rest of the violent culture we live in. They are compliant with this rape culture/this culture of violence every time they harass their female colleagues or refuse to take rape survivors seriously or disregard reports of missing women or perpetrate brutality in our communities. It takes more for any individual or institution to resist than to comply, but we expect that. We demand that. We demand accountability to women, to the trans* community, to the residents of the DTES, to the First Nations people of this territory.
As a rape crisis centre, WAVAW supports all self-identified women who have experience any kind of sexual assault. Last year we received over 4000 calls on our crisis line. The VPD’s public statistics show that the number of “sex offences” reported in Vancouver is at a record high. And yet we know that only 10% of assaults are reported to police. Many women tell us they aren’t sure about reporting to police. They are worried they won’t be believed, they will be blamed for the violence, or they will experience more violence as a result. There is a climate of fear and danger for women inside and outside the institution of policing.
Is it any wonder why women who are raped avoid reporting to police? How safe are women in this society when sexism and misogyny continue even within the only institution we can turn to for our protection?
Police and RCMP are charged with protecting the public and promoting safety, including the safety of women, but…
- the RCMP has failed to investigate disappearances of women from BC,
- women are being criminalized for their attempts to defend themselves from male violence,
- rape and violence against women in intimate relationships is being actively dismissed,
- Toronto officers accused of gang sexual assault were released on bail,
- a Manitoba Mountie took home an intoxicated Indigenous woman from jail – his colleagues and senior officer encouraged him and his ridiculous punishment was docking 7 day’s pay,
- a VPD officer pushed a First Nations woman at a protest for the missing and murdered Indigenous women on the eve of the Memorial March,
- BC’s top police watchdog was accused of sex discrimination and harassment,
- and there is still a sickening tally of over 1,200 Missing and Murdered Women in Canada that keeps growing.
We demand that the police commit to a decolonizing practice. The process of colonization and the very way in which we’ve come to be on this land was stolen through violence and by creating systems that oppressed and impacted all First Nations Peoples. What are they doing about that legacy?
We demand that the police take leadership from women’s organizations and commit to partnerships with organizations that represent the needs of this community to work in the interest of ending all forms of violence and oppression.
We demand to know: What are the police doing to radically change their culture to gain the trust of women in this territory? It’s well past time for the VPD and RCMP to do some serious internal work to examine their place in a colonizing, sexist culture.