November is a time for remembrance and so we wear poppies, lest we forget those brave souls who fought for the many freedoms we enjoy. However, November is also a time for bringing awareness and positive action to the plight of those who suffer. And so it is that at this time, internationally, we act in support of the UN initiative of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, held annually from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.
News reports around the world show that we need action in support of this initiative more than ever. On the international stage, the events in Afghanistan and Iran, in particular, draw our attention to the need to recognize that women are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as men. Yet, those are distant lands and glaringly obvious. One cannot deny that the status of women in many other countries is generally better than in those two countries. Looking at our own country, how does Canada measure up in this area?
It appears not that well. In a culture reflecting mutual respect between the sexes, there would be no need for the Comox Valley Transition Society (CVTS) to operate a shelter for women who have been physically, sexually, psychologically, emotionally, or financially abused by men. In a culture reflecting mutual respect between the sexes, no woman would be killed by her partner or other family member. In a culture reflecting mutual respect between the sexes, women would feel safe walking or jogging alone. Unfortunately, that is not the case in our country.
Statistically, gender-based violence (GBV) occurs every day or nearly every day to a woman near you. It may even be happening to a close relative of yours, or indeed, even to you. These harms manifest in many forms.
Gender-based violence may manifest itself in threats to injure a woman or her children. GBV includes physical violence across the spectrum of slaps to beatings, to sexual assault including rape and sometimes to murder. It includes male dominance of a woman, isolating her from family and friends and holding her completely submissive to the will of her intimate partner. It also includes the woman’s intimate partner withholding money, controlling all household spending, and using money as means of punishment or reward. Yelling, hitting walls, throwing furniture are also tools of violence against women.
It is not for a lack of trying to end GBV that it has continued over the centuries to the present time. Our knowledge, awareness and understanding of this type of behaviour has been improving over the course of time and continues to do so. Yet given our current state of awareness, there appears to be little reduction in the violence.
Lately, there have been some advances in men speaking out and working with women and others to reduce and end GBV.
The CVTS has its own Men’s Group, a free open drop-in group facilitated by experienced counsellors who will support men in respectfully managing the challenges they face in their relationships with others (e.g. their partners, ex-partners), their relationships with work (e.g. job stress, balancing work and family needs), and their relationship with themselves (e.g. self-criticism, discouragement).
For those women and their children who live in such danger that it is necessary for them to leave their home in order to stay safe, there are resources available to support them. The Comox Valley Transition Society offers help any day, any time, including holidays. Its 24-hour crisis line is 250-338-1227.
The BC Ministry of Justice offers VictimLinkBC with confidential support and information in up to 150 languages, to help with safety planning and guide to services and support in your community. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by phone or text at 1-800-563-0808, or email VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca. For those in immediate danger, call 911.
Let us all work together to eliminate the prevalence of gender-based violence in our communities by speaking out against violence against women, by taking a stand against it when we are confronted by it, and by modelling positive behaviour.
This column was adapted from one co-authored by Bev Weidman & Donna Tomljanovic of the Canadian Federation of University Women Vernon