I don’t know about you but my media sources, social and otherwise, are FULL these days of women reporting their experiences of violence. Stories are pouring out through news reports of women who are coming out with allegations against Jian Ghomeshi (up to 9 women so far), the NDP Members of Parliament who recently spoke out about sexual harassment on Parliament Hill, and former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps revealing that that she is a survivor of rape by a former boyfriend and sexual assault by an MPP in the Ontario Legislator back when she was a member. At the same time there is a groundswell of stories through the #BeenRapedNeverReported hashtag picking up steam on social media, the ongoing calls for a national inquiry into the upwards of 1,200 Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada, and the Hollaback video on street harassment sparking many conversations about how violence manifests as women living in this country.
From the streets to the halls of some of our highest offices, it’s abundantly clear to whoever was doubting that violence against women is sadly a very common occurrence in our country. So it’s timely that November is Women Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario, which includes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. If we weren’t already thinking about what it would take to end the gender-based violence we experience as women in this country, this month and these stories are a call to seriously consider it.
What does it mean to reflect on Violence against Women?
Canadian women and girls are no strangers to gender-based violence, the numbers are staggering. In 2009 alone 473,900 women over 15 year old reported experiencing sexual violence.1 That likely even higher because the survey didn’t take into account girls under the age of 15 (who have the highest rates of violence), women in the North, and women abused by current or former partners. It’s also likely higher because women still fear that they will be blamed or not believed when they do report so they rarely do. For example, 22% of domestic violence cases and only 10% of sexual assaults are reported to police.2 473,900 doesn’t even include other forms of violence that women experience, like physical, emotion/verbal, financial, or spiritual abuse, harassment and stalking. Which begs the question of what the actual number is in this country? No wonder 67% of Canadians know at least one women who has experienced violence in their lives.3
What will it take to end violence against women?
There is no easy solution to ending violence against women in Canada. It’s a complicated problem that needs to be addressed in all the forms it takes. One of the ways I recommend is in supporting your local community based organizations because they work so hard to address the many levels while also supporting women empowered address violence in their lives and communities. This can look like working with women and girls to prevent violence through education and awareness; promoting healthy relationships and sexuality, self-esteem, and leadership; supporting women in rebuilding after fleeing violence, accompanying women and girls through legal processes, counselling, healthcare, and addressing the large scale systems that make violence against women seem like a normal or inevitable. These organizations are key to the work in eliminating violence against women because they live and work in the communities they support and intimately know the ways that violence manifests there. Getting involved with your local community organizations by volunteering, donating, etc. is a great way to add your voice to ending violence against women for good.
Some of the organizations that the Canadian Women’s Foundation currently funds that are working to eliminate violence against women in Ontario are:
Along with Violence against Women Shelters and Transition Homes.
For tip sheets and resources on what to do if you know someone who is living with violence or for links to supports if you are being abused, click here.
1. Statistics Cananada, General Social Survey, 2009.
2. “Self-reported victimizations reported to police, 1999, 2004 and 2009,” Criminal victimization in Canada, 2009, Samuel Perreault and Shannon Brennan, Statistics Canada, 2010.
3. Angus Reid Omnibus Survey, Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2012.