2 min

Parent shift gears

Rape Crisis worker has eye on Sydney Games

Credit: Xtra files

Deb Parent hopes the next period of her life will be full of surprises. It certainly will be different.

Last year Parent ended two 20-year relationships, one with her career at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, and the other a life with her spouse.

“I didn’t leave Yvette for another lover, and I didn’t leave the Rape Crisis Centre for another organization,” Parent says. “The last year and a half has been a very powerful, and in some ways personal, transition.”

Parent began at TRCC first as a volunteer – doing outreach and public speaking – and then became a staffer in 1980. Parent felt that her work would help change the world and end violence against women in a few years, and that she’d then be able to move on to something else.

“The dream I had had of transforming the world or community wasn’t going to happen. I needed to replace that dream with something that was actually possible in my lifetime,” she says. There was a “necessity to leave home, and to know myself, as an individual. To open myself to new experiences where I can live out all that the past two decades has brought me.”

Not that Parent hasn’t contributed to change.

As TRCC grew, so did the work. Parent moved into working with volunteers and training and support. More recently, she went into fundraising (growing the annual bowl-a-thon into a $75,000 money maker ).

Then there’s the Take Back The Night March.

It began in Toronto in 1980. “That was the year Barbra Schlifer was murdered. We saw an opportunity to give women a voice, a collective voice. The symbolism of walking at night captured our deepest fears as women, even though the reality of violence is much closer to home.”

And Parent’s Wen-Do and Dyke Self-Defence classes have been a hit in the community for years. She now wants to expand, working in the fall with the Roots Of Empathy program, helping parents and children reduce violence in Toronto schools.

In the meantime, Parent is with Women4Sydney, which hopes to send 50 women to the Gay Games in Australia in 2002.

Each participant contributes a $100 membership fee. Collectively they organize or endorse fundraising events, with each woman earning points (and money) based on her contribution. Parent says this helps athletes who compete individually and aren’t going as part of a team.

“This idea is very appealing because of the nature of collective structure,” she says. “I love the innovation – we can be as creative as we dare to be.”

Parent says it’s also a tangible project.

“It was difficult being at the centre of any kind of frontline work to measure success. If the vision we committed to was ending violence against women and children and that didn’t happen, and the number of calls kept increasing, it got more difficult to measure my effectiveness and the success of the work. I need a new stage to put those pieces out on.”

The future for Parent involves what she calls, “a lot of “standing still. I want to do fewer things, and want to do them better. It’s a different way of seeing myself. For me, my life was what I did – the amount, the energy, the different pieces. I am now able to claim that part of myself, and I want to bring my full energy and power to whatever the next pieces are.”

There’s a new focus at home, too. She and Yvette Perreault remain partners, but not lovers.

“I’m proud of the love we share and the foundation we have built. We are literally transforming our love affair.”

Of the friends, co-workers and women who have touched her life over the past 20 years at TRCC, Parent feels they brought her amazing blessings. There is an “aspect of saying goodbye from a place of love.”