Our herstory begins in 2016, as the Sexual Assault Action Coalition which we created in response to the overwhelming disclosures from survivors during the Ghomeshi hearings in February 2016. Like all grassroots organization and movements, we saw many incredible leaders and supporters leave their mark on our movement and carry their important work forward in different ways. To all those who built this with us from the steps of city hall to delivering our Safer Bars & Spaces Training, we are forever grateful and we will never forget your support, guidance and contributions.
From there our Founder, Viktoria Belle and current board of directors built the Dandelion Initiative, a symbol for the resiliency and power of survivors, dandelions can grow through concrete against all odds and so shall we. The Dandelion Initiative prioritizes the voices of ALL survivors and believes in the power of education as a form of resistance to sexual violence.
We would like to honour the many women and people who have done life saving and transformative work, before us, during our time and after us. There are too many to list here but we want to honour that we never do this work alone, that no idea was ever ours to claim and that we can participate and lead movements with integrity and humility. Please visit our resources section for a non-exhaustive list of inspiration and learning.
The Dandelion Initiative is led by survivors of sexual violence for survivors. We prioritize the voices of LGBTQ2s+, Black, Indigenous, racialized survivors and believe in the power of education as a form of resistance to violence. We work under an intersectional and trauma-informed framework, applying survivor centric practices to all of our work.
We have organized community events and forums with over 100+ participants, bringing together diverse groups of people committed to ending sexual violence in the food, hospitality and live music industry, providing opportunities for marginalized women/feminized people to access live saving supports.
We have been honoured to present our work and knowledge to organizations like: CAMH, Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, CUPE Ontario, Ryerson University, The City of Kingston, The Municipality of Thunder Bay, Intersections Conference city of Ottawa, the Violence Against Women Roundtable, Maggie’s Toronto and The City of Toronto. Our Safer Bars and Spaces Training program is transforming workplace culture by preventing sexual violence through education and policy development.
We have grown from whisper networks to developing policies and programs for organizations like Restaurants Canada and Canadian Music Gallery that ensure all people can have workplaces free of sexual violence.
Our Safer Bars and Spaces training has reached thousands of people across Canada, increasing public awareness of preventing sexual violence in the food, hospitality and live music industry while empowering survivors to resist and thrive. Our commitment to sustain and grow as a survivor led initiative is rooted in our dedication to enhancing healthy working opportunities and increasing access to resources and education for women/feminized people working to end gender based violence. Building networks that strengthen the not for profit sector through policy development, survivor centric supports, resource sharing and knowledge exchange is our path to grow and sustain.
About our Founder
Viktoria Belle is a survivor, LGBTQ2s+ community member and immigrant, she began her work in the early years community and developed a deep connection with community, families, survivors and children. Viktoria worked many years as an Early Childhood Educator, was the coordinator at The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, she worked as the Program Manager at Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project and has contributed to many different projects, publications and movements to end gender based violence. She has a deep devotion to survivor centric programming and research, her commitment to creating safer spaces in the bar, hospitality and live music industry is based on lived experience and thorough knowledge and community outreach. She has been an educator in Ontario for 10 years with a background in public policy and gender based violence prevention. She prioritizes working with diverse organizations and movements to develop and implement feminist and trauma informed practices through various programs to prevent and respond to sexual violence. She developed the Safer Bars and Spaces Program which has delivered safer spaces training across Canada, transforming workplace and industry cultures.
“I remember sleeping in a coffee time when I was 17 years old determined to find a way out of my circumstances. The truths of peoples intersecting identities and lived experiences has to stay in the forefront of everything we do to ensure that movements are not built on the backs or necks or marginalized women/feminized people".”
VALUES + VISION
We call-in community members rather than calling out, holding one another accountable through restorative justice models that are trauma-informed.
We believe in the power of all Women (Womyn)
We recognize we are on stolen land where our Indigenous sisters and Two Spirit folx have been oppressed, colonized and stigmatized. We are dedicated to amplifying the voices of our Indigenous community members, and approach our language and work with a decolonized framework.
Trauma informed practices are new and in constant development, we are dedicated to continuing our understanding of trauma through feminist and anti-ableist frameworks.
We believe in a integrated anti-oppression approach to peer outreach and support, honouring lived experiences as truth and knowledge.
There are no hierarchies. There are branches and mentors who guide and help build on our movements but ultimately, we are all students and peers.
We will ALWAYS celebrate one another’s work. You will never be nameless. Honour your work and expect to be recognized for it.
The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape (TRCC/MWAR) has been a groundbreaking and crucial network of survivor informed and led care and advocacy. We wish to continue honouring the work of these womyn and folx, through our work and hopefully many future collaborations.
We will not tolerate the status quo. Our policies are built based on extensive research, lived experiences and shared vision.
Survivors are experts of their own lives and healing.
All survivors choose what language they wish to use and how much they wish to disclose.
We will always aim to prioritize our community members to facilitate paid workshops.
We believe that survivors should be paid for their work. When we can, we will always make this a priority.
We believe in the power of community sharing by honouring our time together with food, music and art.
We DO NOT tolerate any form of homophobia, sexism, transphobia, racism, ableism, ageism, sexual harassment, sexual assault, discrimination in any form and any form of violence.
We recognize that as people who have experienced trauma we are more likely to find ourselves navigating internal violence, we have ZERO tolerance for any form off abuse through power or intimidation. We will always call-in when possible.
Sex work is real work. Sex workers are always included in our community and movement.
We are dedicated to sharing our policies and practices openly to support other organizations and establishments to challenge the status quo and develop a community practice based on the liberation of survivors everywhere.
Develop and strengthen our internal policies and practices, along with the community board structure and by-laws.
Continue our “Safer Bars Training and Education” with bars/restaurants and venues.
Collaborate with other community partners like GNO Vancouver, PLURI, AASK MONTREAL, and other grassroots and non-profit survivor led organizations and movements.
Receive funding to secure a permanent location for The Dandelion Initiative, where we can provide direct services for survivors by survivors. This space would serve as a multi service drop in for survivors led by survivors, and we would also be able to use our space for community events, training, workshops and group sessions.
We aim to find a location that is accessible.
We will always aim to provide child care and TTC compensation for community members during our events.
We recognize the power of animals and creatures in our healing journey, all pets welcome to any of our future events when we secure a location.
We hope to engage in political action, policy development and knowledge transfers between The Dandelion Initiative community and staff and local leaders and politicians.
We recognize the broken judicial systems that survivors have to navigate here in Ontario and throughout Canada. Because of this we will continue to challenge the current legislation and regulations that continue to fail survivors.