Once again we are approaching the period between Nov. 25, the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and Dec. 6, the day Canada marks a period of action on this issue in conjunction with the anniversary of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre. Daily media reports from Canada and around the world show that there is still much work to be done to eliminate domestic and intimate partner violence, as well as rape and interpersonal violence of other kinds. Beyond that, we are only beginning to recognize and deal with the impact of emotional and verbal abuse as equally “valid” and damaging forms of violence experienced by many women and girls.
Each year in Saskatchewan emergency shelters, transitions houses, and second-stage houses take in over 4,000 women and children who have experienced abuse and violence. In fact, our province has the dubious distinction of being one of the “leaders” nationally in reported domestic violence. In 2010, 6,534 victims of family violence were reported in the province and 7,036 victims of intimate partner violence were reported the same year. And given domestic violence in an issue which is known to be under-reported, the scope of the problem is likely much larger than we see through reported incidents only.
The problem exists in every community and there is no “typical victim” of this type of violence; women of all ages, cultures, economic classes and walks of life may experience abuse. Local efforts to raise awareness about the issue over the past year have included the community-based “One Billion Rising” event in February, the inclusion of the issue at International Women’s Day celebrations in March, and the development of a community strategy to reduce violence against women and girls through the Peaceful Communities Project.
The Peaceful Communities Project seeks to develop and implement a community-based strategy to reduce violence against women and girls in five participating communities around the province, including Swift Current. The plan has a number of initiatives which address preventative education, public awareness on the issue, as well as practical supports such as better access to legal supports and low or no cost counselling. Work toward these goals is underway and will continue over the next two years, with project teams involving Southwest Crisis Services staff, other community agencies, and interested volunteers will implement the strategies.
Southwest Crisis Services is also once again partnering with Maverick School to help promote their 16th annual White Ribbon campaign in the week leading up to Dec. 6. This initiative is an opportunity for men to take a stand against violence. Maverick School will be encouraging all male Chinook School Division staff to wear white ribbons during the week and students at the school will participate in education and discussions on relationship violence.
Male or female, for us to start to address the problem we all need to understand what abuse is, the conditions which lead to violence, and the role we all have to play in making abuse and violence unacceptable in our community.