This year, Counterpoint turns 20 years old, and I could not be prouder of what this cooperative has achieved. What began as a passion project led by a group of friends has grown into one of the most prominent organizations fighting to end Violence Against Women (VAW) in Toronto.
Much has changed in the struggle for gender equity in the past two decades. Starting last year, millions of people around the world have come forward to demand an end to gendered violence, sharing their stories and demanding change through the global #MeToo movement. In the face of so many stories, the world can no longer deny that VAW is an epidemic – and that to end this epidemic, we must invest in transformative education to help men become non-violent.
This is certainly a historic moment, one that has instilled our work with a new sense of urgency. However, as unique as this moment may be, there is also much that has not changed for the past two decades. Counterpoint is still working to do as much as possible with very limited resources – which is a reality for most organizations on the front lines of the fight against VAW. And despite decades of struggle, we still have not achieved our demands of gender equity, whether that’s in the home, in the workplace, or in the realm of policy.
At the same time, I am glad that some things have remained constant – namely, the dedication of our staff, volunteers, and board members. I am constantly inspired by the energy that this team of wonderful, creative people brings to the table. And I am especially grateful to the staff with whom we work at the Ministry of the Attorney General for their support and commitment to our work.
This past year, we served 387 English speaking men, 27 Spanish speaking men and 3 women. With the help of our Partner Contact Workers, we were able to make contact with 1,181 survivors and partners of those participants that attended the program. And at the community partnership level, we sat on the advisory committee of a powerful arts project, “Criminal Harassment – Their Unheard Voices,” created by the Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre.
On International Women’s day, over 250 women participated in celebrating gender equality. The presentations demonstrated how individuals can actively be part of change in gender equality issues. The success of the event would not have been possible without the Hispanic Development Council and many other community partners that creatively collaborated with Counterpoint.
We continue to work with professionals in Mexico and Chile to explore ways that Counterpoint can share the expertise we have developed from our long history of working with abusers. The momentum in the transnational movement to end VAW is exciting and serves to energize new initiatives. We look forward to expanding our collaborative efforts and actively growing this area of work in the future.
Our board members have been hard at work to build our capacity, expand our reach and deepen our impact. Under the board’s guidance, our staff members are now developing and implementing their own client-focused programming. Thanks to this new strategy, we are now able to offer exciting programs such as anger management classes and substance abuse counselling.
Early in the year, we received the news that the provincial government of Ontario would be implementing its first increase to Partner Assault Response (PAR) program funding in over 20 years. Thrilled, we announced to our staff that everyone on the team would be getting a long-overdue increasing both pay and working hours. Unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived. With the change in provincial government, the increase in funding is no longer guaranteed.
We invite the new provincial government to work more actively in collaboration with Counterpoint and other community organizations that are addressing VAW at its root causes. More urgently than ever we need to end the cycles of violence experienced by so many women within their intimate relationships, that are fueled by toxic masculinity and patriarchal belief systems. These cycles cost women their lives and men the ability to have healthy, loving relationships. VAW is also major drain on our social service systems. When we don’t heal the issue at its root, we are left to grapple with its consequences in our courts, prisons, hospitals, and schools. Families suffer, wounds fester, and the cycle continues.
Join us. Let’s work together to transform toxic beliefs and behaviors into an active community that ensures accountability, respect, and equity for all. Let’s provide victims with the support they need to recover from trauma and live full lives. Let’s improve our most vital social services so that they can better serve everyone in Ontario.
Clara Luz Castillo