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Give Back Friday, Not Black Friday: How We’re Combatting Sexual Violence Against Women

by Gelaine Santiago November 23, 2017

Give Back Friday, Not Black Friday: How We’re Combatting Sexual Violence Against Women

Photo credit Toronto Star Photographic Archive

Every year, at the end of November, you wake up with the same bombardment of emails from brands advertising their huge sales and big promotions, pushing things onto you that, quite frankly, you probably don’t need. But that’s what Black Friday has become about. Just the need for MORE. More sales, more money, more things. More. More. More.  

Well, we’ve got a big problem with that.

At Cambio Market, we use this time of year as an opportunity to be extra thoughtful and intentional with what we do. Rather than deep discounts, we don’t offer any at all. Instead, we choose to partner with carefully researched organizations who are tackling complex and meaningful causes, and aim to raise awareness of the issues in the world we live. Last year, we partnered with Lifeline Syria, an organization benefitting Syrian refugees in Canada.

This year, with the revelations around sexual harassment and violence, the #MeToo campaign on social media that brought to light the harassment women face everyday, the increasing hostility we’ve seen towards people of colour, and the numerous missing and murdered indigenous women that remain unresolved, we had our work cut out for us.

People we love have been impacted by sexual violence. Like all women, I personally have experienced sexual harassment and one too many “close calls”. We’ve read the reports. We know the numbers. Indigenous, Black, disabled, younger and older women experience the highest levels of violence in our communities.  

And so, we’re proud to announce that this year, we’ve partnered with Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape (TRCCMWAR), an organization working at the intersections of race, gender, and sexual violence. They serve anyone who identifies as a survivor of violence, including trans people, non-binary folks, cisgender men and women, and youth.

From Friday November 24th until end of day Tuesday November 28th (Giving Tuesday), we’re donating 20% every sale to benefit Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape. It’s #GiveBackFriday, not Black Friday.

To dive deeper into what TRCCMWAR does, we interviewed Bristy Chakrabarty, one of TRCCMWAR’s counsellors/advocates to give you more information on how this organization benefits the people they serve.

Thanks for being here, Bristy! Can you tell us about yourself and your role at TRCCMWAR?

I began as a crisis line volunteer in 2013 with TRCC. From there, I started working in various contract positions such as an emergency backup counsellor, a trainer for new crisis line volunteers, and currently I assist with coordinating the 24 hour crisis line run by 110 volunteers.

Bristy Chakrabarty is one of TRCCMWAR’s Counsellors and has been involved since 2013.
Bristy Chakrabarty is one of TRCCMWAR’s Counsellors and has been involved since 2013

What motivated you to want to get involved with TRCCMWAR?

I’ve always had a niche for the movement against sexual violence. Even as a young woman, I’ve tried to practice a critical feminist framework in my work and my academic life. As a woman of colour myself, I was passionate about finding an organization that supported people of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

For those reasons, TRCC was a very reasonable option for me when I started looking for an organization that could support the anti-sexual violence movement. There are also very few organizations left that are a true collective.

Tell us about TRCCMWAR. What are the services you offer, and who do you service?

Our bottom line is that we provide services for anyone and everyone. Our primary focus does end up being on women and trans folks, especially people from marginalized communities. We do several different forms of service, such as the 24-hour crisis line run by volunteers. The crisis line is free, for anyone and everyone, and anyone can call for anything they deem to be a crisis.

We do a lot of public education, workshops within the district school board, and even with other organizations. We also have an amazing program called Latin American Women’s Program (LAWP) offering support groups in Spanish, as well as face-to-face counselling in Spanish. We have several staff offering free face to face counselling, and offer support groups for specific communities. One of my coworkers offers a group for young, Black-identified folks for women and girls. We do advocacy - any form including prison support, court support, and workshops with other community organizations for young women.

One of our biggest events is Take Back The Night and the Toronto Run & Roll Against Violence.


Tell us about the team at TRCCMWAR. What are some of the life experiences TRCC staff bring?
We’ve got a very diverse staff, and people identify in different intersectional places. In terms of social location, race, sexual orientation, people who identify as queer, dual bloodline, etc.

TRCC is a survivor-led organization. If you’re seeking out our support, then you know the best for yourself. We can support you in whatever you need, but at the end, you are the expert of your own life. All our staff come from different training and educational backgrounds. We’re not keen on institutional education, and instead have staff with a diverse background of lived experiences.

What do you love most about your job at TRCCMWAR?
I love connecting with folks. I love doing work that involves intentional engagement. We live in a “let’s not talk about this/let’s sweep this under the rug” kind of culture. But at TRCCMWAR, we are very vocal, very active, and very intentionally engaging in our work. I wear that on my sleeve, and I’m very proud of the work we do here as a collective.

I love talking to young people about what we do, raising awareness, and discussing matters that should be part of our community and culture. Like consent, for example. That should be inherent in our culture, but it isn’t. So I love being part of that.

How can people in general be allies to survivors of sexual violence?

If you’re supporting a survivor, BELIEVE them. That’s the first thing. We live in a culture where, when faced with someone who’s experienced assault, we immediately think “Who should we call? Where can we go? Here’s what you need to do.” It all comes from a good place, however, it’s important to keep in mind that we should ASK the person what they need rather than prescribing a solution. When we tell a survivor what they should or shouldn’t do, we actually further marginalize them.

If it’s their choice to get law enforcement involved or to seek legal help, then support them. But we shouldn’t be making that decision for that person.

How can people support TRCCMWAR’s work?

Become engaged in whatever way your life allows you to, and however you want to. Whether it’s becoming a frontline or crisis line volunteer, or just attending our community events. Fundraising always helps. One person recently did fundraising for TRCC through their bridal shower. Monetary donations are awesome, but so is people’s time and energy.

TRCC / MWAR - Stop Rape Now

Learn more about Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape. Starting November 24th until end of day November 28th, 20% of every Cambio Market sale will be donated to TRCCMWAR to support anti-sexual violence.


Gelaine Santiago
Gelaine Santiago


Gelaine is co-founder of Cambio & Co. – a brand on a mission to change how business is done and how people shop. Cambio & Co. showcases contemporary, conscious fashion made with Filipino soul - all designed and handcrafted in the Philippines by talented Filipino artisans. Gelaine is a proud Filipina-Chinese-Canadian living in Toronto, writing and learning about Filipino culture, travel, and conscious living. Find her on Twitter @gelaineyyy.

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