Remember well, and take action, every day of the year

December 5, 2013 | Times & Transcript

(This post originally appeared in the Times & Transcript on December 5th, 2013, and is shared with permission.)

Tomorrow, Dec. 6, is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and the 24th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre in which 14 young women were murdered at an engineering school. It also marks the last day of the annual 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence initiative that began on Nov. 25, the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Dec. 6 also brings YWCA Canada’s Rose Campaign to end violence against women and girls, which runs concurrently with the 16 Days of Activism, to a close.

In acknowledgement of the significance of Dec. 6 in the struggle to end violence against women and girls, I would like to share some facts with you.

For the 2013 Rose Campaign, YWCA Canada released a series of infographics presenting the following information on violence against women (culled from a variety of reputable sources like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Statistics Canada, peer reviewed journals, etc.):

Every year, 100,000 women and children in Canada stay at emergency shelters to flee violence; almost half of them don’t know where they will go after the shelter.

There at 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. Of those assaults: only 33 per cent will be reported to the police; 29 per cent will be recorded as a crime; 12 per cent will result in charges; six per cent of them will actually be prosecuted; and three per cent will actually see a conviction.

Violence against women costs Canada $18.6 billion annually, while the government spends $79.9 million per year on violence programs and services. Broken down, violence against women annually costs $334 per Canadian, while the government invests only $3 per Canadian in related programs and services.

Here are some additional facts about violence against women from the Canadian Women’s Foundation (like YWCA Canada’s infographics, the Foundation has gathered the following stats from credible sources, like Statistics Canada and the Native Women’s Association of Canada):

On average, every six days a Canadian woman is killed by her intimate partner.

There are over 582 Aboriginal women in Canada who are either missing or murdered (according to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, “if this figure were applied proportionally to the rest of the female population there would be 18,000 missing Canadian women and girls).

Of female sexual assault victims, 66 per cent are under the age of 24; 11 per cent are under the age of 11.

Finally, here are some facts that are specific to New Brunswick, taken from a study by Dr. Deborah Doherty (presented in 2010 by the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women) of 35 confirmed cases of domestic homicide in the province between 1989 and 2010:

Sixty-six per cent of the women were killed by a common-law or former common law partner or ex-boyfriend. The remaining 34 per cent of women were killed by a husband or ex-husband.

Thirty-seven per cent of the women were killed after separating from a partner.

Of the 20 cases in which the perpetrator did not subsequently commit suicide: nine perpetrators were convicted for first or second degree murder; eight for manslaughter; one for criminal negligence. One was found not criminally responsible.

For once, I’m going to withhold my opinion, because I hope that these numbers speak for themselves. I don’t think I need an angle of analysis, a cutting approach, or pop culture hook. I need the facts to be read and for what is plainly obvious to be understood: even in 2013, women in Canada are being displaced by violence, being sexually assaulted, and being killed—often when they’re trying to flee the violence.

While I let the numbers speak for themselves, I will invite you to take action on this issue. I encourage you to visit rosecampaign.ca to learn about violence against women on a national level. I also suggest reading over the Government of New Brunswick’s 2012 Equality Profile on women. I invite you to attend a candlelight vigil organized by the Moncton & District Labour Council tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Dan Bohan Centre in Riverview; this vigil is often attended by family members of women in New Brunswick who were killed as part of their healing process.
 More than anything, I invite you to remember the facts of violence against women in Canada every day of the year, not just tomorrow. After all, the slogan for is “First mourn, then work for change,” and we must never forget that the day is ultimately a call to action.

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Challenging and transcending the status quo

October 10, 2013 | Times & Transcript

(This post originally appeared in the Times & Transcript on October 10th, 2013, and is shared with permission.)

Next week, YWCAs around the world will be holding activities to mark Week Without Violence, an annual World YWCA campaign that exists to prevent, reduce, and eliminate violence against women and girls in our communities.

This year, YWCA Moncton’s Week Without Violence will include Moncton’s second Take Back the Night (a community march to end sexual violence against women), Power of Being a Girl and Strength in Being a Boy (a day of violence-prevention conferences for middle-school aged youth), and fundraising for programs and services through the sixth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (the international men’s walk to end gender-based violence).

This year’s Week Without Violence is going to be exceptional because it is approaching the issue of gender-based violence from multiple angles that are all community-focused and strength-based.

These events are all about the transformative potential communities have when they work to address violence against women.

Take Back the Night (which is being co-organized by the YWCA, Crossroads for Women, and Support to Single Parents) events are held the world over.

That’s because community members organize them with the belief that the societal norms and attitudes that normalize and promote violence against women can be dismantled and that sexual violence against women can be ended.

While the event is typically fueled by a healthy dose of indignation, it ultimately embodies a transcendent, hopeful spirit and a sense of solidarity amongst participants.

Simply put, we march because we believe our commitment and action on the issue of sexual violence — symbolized by our nighttime march — can and will change the status quo.

The Power of Being a Girl and Strength in Being a Boy conferences not only offer tools to youth so that they may live violence-free lives (and contribute to a violence-free future), but also indicate that the host community believes that gender-based violence is a problem that must be addressed within the school system.

The YWCA offers these conferences to schools that request them and are willing to work with us as partners.

This year we will be at Eleanor W. Graham Middle School working with youth from Elsipogtog First Nation and Rexton communities.

When we deliver these conferences at a school, it means that the greater community is willing to openly discuss and challenge gender-based violence and that they believe in the capacity of their youth to help end violence against women and girls.

The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event puts the spotlight on men’s commitment to ending gender-based violence.

What I love about this event is that it doesn’t ask men to quietly donate to a good cause, but to actively raise awareness (by soliciting support and donations from their friends, coworkers, and families) and to take a very public, highly visible stand on violence against women in our community.

When men participate in Walk a Mile, they are creating a platform for public discussion on the scourge of gender-based violence and insisting that it is an issue that belongs to everyone, not just women.

It’s important that we know the statistics on gender-based violence, that we lobby government for better policies and that we provide services and programs for those who are at-risk of, experiencing, or recovering from violence.

However, so much of the work of ending violence against women involves changing attitudes that minimize, normalize, and enable gender-based violence.

Attitudes aren’t changed by legislation or policy, but by day-to-day interpersonal and community actions that challenge us to do better.

That’s why Week Without Violence 2013 — in Moncton and around the globe — is important.

If you wish to participate in Week Without Violence 2013, please contact YWCA Moncton at 855-4349 or info@ywcamoncton.com.

Women, men and children are welcome at both Take Back the Night and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

To register for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, please visit www.walkamilemoncton.com.

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