As Clay Tang reflects upon the women in his world, he offers up a statistic that is both sad and sobering.
“I don’t know one woman in my life who hasn’t experienced some sort of assault or abuse, or even just some sort of inappropriate action towards them — not one,” Tang told the Courier Monday.
Tang is one of about 20 men who volunteer with the Vancouver Rape Relief Funding Alliance, which acts as the funding arm of the Vancouver Rape Relief Society.
This Sunday, June 3, he and a few hundred others will walk around the seawall in solidarity with women who’ve experienced that trauma.
The 39th annual Walk for Rape Relief is one the primary fundraisers for the society, which supports women and children in the midst of escaping violence from men.
“I’ve never had to worry about going out, or worrying about what to wear or what time of evening it is,” Tang said. “I know that is a very common thing for most women to think about.”
Sunday will mark Louisa Russell’s 18th walk. Far from it being a somber event, the 10-kilometre walk is more like an opportunity to reconnect and reflect.
“It’s a lot like a big family or community reunion,” said Russell, who works in crisis and trauma intervention with the society. “This day is as much about raising money as it is about public education because for every one person that we ask for a donation, it’s an opportunity for us to tell them about Vancouver Rape Relief.”
Whether it’s talking about the society’s work, or just talking in general, getting the conversation started is a major part of Sunday’s event. Both Russell and Tang point to the Me Too movement as a massive shift that’s helped remove stigma and get dialogue moving.
It’s also served as moment of pause for men to reconcile behaviours they’ve witnessed, or been a part of, in the past.
“A lot of men talk about how they grew up in a family where their father was violent and they never felt resolved about that,” Russell said. “They want to understand that or come to terms with that. Some men are actively really rejecting sexist behaviours in other men — they don’t want to be that guy. They want to find another way to talk to women and have relations with women.”
Established in 1975, the society offers peer counselling, legal advice and a 24-hour crisis line, among other services. An accompanying transition house in Vancouver serves about 100 women and their children a year as they rebuild their lives.
Part of the point of Sunday’s walk is to raise money for the transition house and other services the society provides: everything from cab fares to and from a courthouse to ensuring the crisis line remains open.
About $20,000 of the $35,000 fundraising goal had been met by mid-afternoon on May 29.
“You have to really intentionally stick your head in the sand to not know about this anymore,” Tang said. “Guys are less able to feign ignorance, that’s been a big change.”
Outside of the walk itself, food and live music will be served up near the event’s start and end point at Ceperley Park. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and the walk kicks off an hour later.
Those unable to attend can donate online at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/vancouver-rape-relief-society/p2p/walk2018.
The society’s 24-hour emergency crisis line is 604-872-8212.