1977-1979 – The very beginning
- The establishment of the CALACS in 1977 was based on the involvement and action of a few anglophone women in the community, supported by Alice Herscovitch, community organizer at the Châteauguay CLSC.
- The centre was born out of a desire to help women who were victims of sexual violence in a context where the judicial system failed to provid neither protection nor the right to security and freedom for women; it (this system) did not recognize the full seriousness of sexual assault and even less the psychological and physical consequences; the police too often judged “rape cases” as unfounded; hospitals were turning away women who had been raped; social services perceived sexually assaulted women as a marginal clientele and that the population in general harbored numerous prejudices with regards to sexual violence, but also with regard to the women who are the main victims.
- In 1979, the Centre d’aide aux victimes de viol de Châteauguay was incorporated.
1980-1989 – Years of emergence
- Various self-financing activities, supported by activists, ensure the core operation of the center, namely a telephone line, office supplies and travel expenses for the activists.
- At the end of this first year, the centre changed its name to the Centre d’aide et de prévention d’assauts sexuels (CAPAS). The centre’s mission is clear and is structured around three components: counselling, education awareness, and advocacy.
- The crisis and telephone listening service is open for 3 hours every night of the week, on an activist basis. The 24/7 emergency line service will open shortly thereafter.
- Then, a federal grant will ensure “permanent” positions for two women workers, Nicole Ladouceur and Marjolaine Dufort. Soon after came a provincial grant from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, which helped develop the centre’s services and activities.
- The centre will contribute to the formation of the Regroupement québécois des Centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (Quebec Coalition of Sexual Assault Centers), in consultation with other CALACS. Today the Coalition has 27 members.
- The centre will also organize the first Day of Action against Violence against Women under the theme “La rue, la nuit, femmes sans peur” (Take back the Night) which will bring together 150 women for a march through the streets of Châteauguay. The Day of Action remains, after so many years, a key day for our center and all the CALACS in Quebec. Each year, actions are carried out.
- The first prevention meetings are held with student groups of grade eleven at Polyvalente Louis-Philippe-Paré high school.
- The Centre will participate in the development of a municipal regulation on the display of printed materials and objects of a pornographic nature. This regulation will serve as a model for other municipalities seeking greater respect for their citizens and, more specifically, for women.
- The centre will also initiate and participate in the creation of groups such as : «On se garde nos enfants», «La Re-Source» women’s shelter and the CALACS La Vigie in Valleyfield.
- In the mid-1980s, the centre will integrate into its activities the Espace programme dedicated to children. The Espace Châteauguay group will take off at the very end of this decade and continues, to this day, its mission brilliantly!
1990-1999 – Years of anchoring
- Due to difficulties in covering the on-call hours, the centre was forced to end the 24/7 service after 12 years of existence and volunteer/activist support.
- A first support group is set up to enable women to break their isolation, as well as promote exchanges, support, and female solidarity. Even today, the centre offers support groups in a more intensive way.
- The project J’AVISE (Jeunes en Action contre la VIolence SExuelle) aimed at identifying our best practices, more specifically, in terms of prevention with young people, is born. Following this project, two guides will be published at Éditions Saint-Martin.
- In 1998, the CALACS and 10 other support centres across Canada will conduct pan-Canadian research on the treatment of women who are victims of sexual violence in the justice system. This 5-year networking and research project will give a new impetus to our advocacy work and our interest in justice issues.
- At the same time, the centre is working in partnership on two agreements for psychosocial counselling and socio-judicial support. The first targets victims of domestic violence and the second targets sexually assaulted adult women.
2000-2009 – Years of consolidation
- The centre collaborates with the Regroupement québécois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (Quebec Coalition of Sexual Assault Centers) to do major advocacy work at the provincial government level with the goal of improving the funding and development of the CALACS network. Our efforts are rewarded; they consolidate our financial situation!
- Our concern for the defense of the rights and the specific issues encountered by women who are more discriminated against such as lesbians, women living with a physical and/or intellectual disability, immigrant and refugee women and aboriginal women bring us to work with our various provincial and regional partners.
- The GAP (Prevention Action Group) was established in 2001. It will soon marked its 20th anniversary.
- As part of its 25th anniversary, the CAPAS becomes the Centre d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALACS) Châteauguay and on the same occasion changes its image.
- After several years of discussions, writing and amendments, the Partnership Agreement on Psychosocial Counselling and Socio-judicial Support for Adult Sexually Assaulted Women is finally signed.
- Thanks to a grant from the Réseau de l’action bénévole du Québec, we produced a brochure and a pamphlet entitled “Le CALACS vous parle de la violence sexuelle et les femmes vivant un handicap physique”.
2010-2019 – Years of declaration
- We conduct a first prevention meeting at Howard S. Billings School with the J’AVISE program.
- Thanks to a grant from the Department of Justice, we drafted and published a “Guide to Supporting the Loved Ones of a Victim of Sexual Assault” as well as a bilingual brochure. The Guide continues to generate interest and demand, particularly from CALACS across Quebec.
- The CALACS Châteauguay website is finally online, and we are very proud of this great achievement.
- Through our involvement in CALACS Montérégie, we work on a project to denounce sexual exploitation and produce promotional material with the slogan “By the strength of our differences, say no to sexual violence.”
- In addition, a support group for women with intellectual disabilities who have experienced sexual assault is started. The content is inspired by the “Briser le silence” (Breaking the Silence) program created by Sophie Bolduc, then an intern at the centre. In recent years, we have maintained this very important group service.
- Nearly 1,300 students walk through “The Corridors of Dating Violence.” This project has earned all the partners of the Réseau des partenaires contre la violence faite aux femmes Jardins-Roussillon the “Grand prix reconnaissance 2013-2014”, an award in partnership with the Des Grandes Seigneuries School Commission.
- As part of National Victims of Crime Awareness Week in 2014, approximately 15 women participate in the development of a billboard display project denouncing the sexual violence that had been perpetrated against them. They are seen by thousands of people driving along Highways 132 and 138 near the Mercier Bridge. Since then, we have been celebrating this week every year, which is now known as Victims and Survivors of Crime Week.
- In recent years, we have also carried out actions for our members and activists on the 12 Days for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, as well as on International Women’s Rights Day.
- Over the past three years, we have had the pleasure of participating in the awareness campaign “SEXTING is PORN!” initiated by the Châteauguay Police Service, the goal being to educate, raise awareness and provide tools to teenagers aged 12 to 17 on the issue of sexting.
- As part of a grant received by the Secrétariat à la Condition Féminine du Québec, we deploy the project “Sexual violence against women living with an intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder must stop!” This project was carried out in collaboration with the teams of the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) in Montérégie-Ouest who work with these women. This project also earned us a nomination at the annual CISSS West Montérégie Inspiration Awards gala. The project also won the Health and Social Services Network Award of Excellence for Support for Vulnerable Persons and Groups.
- The centre participated in the co-construction of the prevention program Empreinte – Agir ensemble contre les agressions à caractère sexuel with the expertise of CALACS and two researchers specialized in the field of sexual violence, Manon Bergeron and Martine Hébert, from the Department of Sexology at the Université du Québec à Montréal. It is an innovative program aimed at reaching young people, their parents and school staff.
- Finally, since the first years of the CALACS, and on a regular annual basis, we participate in various roundtables and working committees. This brings us to get involved in different activities and projects each more interesting than the other. We thought we would spare you the long list of our partnerships although they are all very important.
2020 to this day – Years of adaptation
- Given the context of the pandemic raging more severely in 2020 and 2021, the CALACS team had to adapt its way of working, from full-time working remotely to a hybrid model of remote work and face-to-face, and a full return to face-to-face. These changes have brought their share of challenges and adjustments through the implementation of protocols and health measures to ensure the protection of women receiving services from the centre and workers.
- In this spirit, in 2020 and 2021, support services were adapted to remote practices (videoconferencing or telephone) except for certain exceptions, which led to the creation of forms, the sending of our welcome documents by email, etc.
- Many of the prevention and raising awareness activities have been paused or offered by videoconference, with all the challenges that this implies. Since then, business has resumed to business as usual.
- For the first time, we organized an evening conference as part of Justice Month. We have recurred for a second year and wish to keep the focus on this activity annually.
- There has been a significant increase in our core funding to the mission, the last increase was in 2001.
- We are privileged to receive funding from the Secrétariat à la condition féminine for the deployment of the ”Empreinte ”prevention program. Funding was also offered to facilitate access to services in the context of COVID-19, which made it possible to equip the centre/workers for remote practice and secure the workplace. Another grant will allow us to work with the Aboriginal community of Kahnawake to provide prevention activities.
- After several years in the same premises, CALACS moves in 2021 to larger spaces, allowing it to better welcome women and offer a warmer and more functional place for workers.
- Finally, since the early years of CALACS, and on a regular annual basis, we participate in various round tables and working committees. This leads us to get involved in different activities and projects, each more interesting than the last.