A Vancouver organization that provides shelter and services for rape victims and women fleeing domestic violence has become the target of violent graffiti.
On Tuesday, staff with the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter (VRRWS), Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre, arrived to find graffiti scrawled across the windows of the organization’s Kingsway education centre, including the messages “TERFS go home you are not welcome” and “Kill TERFS.”
TERF is an acronym referring to “trans-exclusionary radical feminism.”
According to VRRWS, someone had also previously nailed a dead rat to the door of its Kingsway education centre.
VRRWS has faced some backlash in the community for its policy of denying services to transgender women.
The centre says its services are available to all “female-born women” who have experienced male violence.
It said the policy is necessary to protect women who have experienced male violence and may not be comfortable around transgender women, who the centre says could appear or sound like men and do not share the same life experience.
“It’s not to say that trans women don’t experience oppression or don’t deserve services or deserve rights,” said crisis centre worker Sonam Khangura.
“I think disagreement is fine… But hateful speech and threatening to kill us is not acceptable. And for those who are really concerned about the lack of services for trans women, I would suggest to start something or organize something … for them, and we’ll be in full support of that but not to target or undermine what we have going on here.”
In the wake of the graffiti, transgender rights activist Morgane Oger — who has been critical of VRRWS’s policy on trans women — took to Twitter to say she does not support inciting violence.
Vancouver police confirmed they were investigating the graffiti and said officers would be working with VRRWS staff on a safety plan.
Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver cut nearly $34,000 in funding to Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, citing its policy of not accepting trans women. The city said this policy does not meet the city’s trans equality and inclusion criteria, which was adopted in 2016.
The city says the funding cut will take effect in 2020 unless the shelter changes its policy.