For most of us, home has been a refuge during the pandemic, our new multifaceted, multiuse area for work, play, school and living, but then there are people for whom home is a scary, dangerous place. Those people were top of mind at Thursday’s flag raising at City Hall to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and to launch 16 days of action including the commemoration of December 6.
“November 25 kicks off 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, encouraging community members wherever you live and work to be part of the solution in ending gender-based violence, to look at how you can work towards ending gender-based violence in your everyday lives and your communities,” said Jensen Williams, the public educator for Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.
“This flag is part of this year’s ‘Wrapped in Courage’ Campaign, and throughout the 16 days of activism, Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis will also be working with ARCH, HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health, to do a ’16 Voices of Activism’ video series highlighting survivors activists and community members who are making this work to end gender-based violence a part of their community,” Williams added.
Mayor Cam Guthrie, who was also on hand for the flag raising, laid out some out the stakes on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
“One-in-three women will experience gender-based violence in their life, and the numbers are increasing, especially for those in the BIPOC population,” Guthrie explained. “COVID-19 has – no surprise – increased barriers to support and services for survivors of gender-based violence and their children as well. Last year alone, every 13 days a woman or child was killed by a man known to them, with the majority being their current, or former intimate partner.”
“I would really encourage you to get in touch with the Women in Crisis network and agency here in the city,” Guthrie added. “They need our help, they need donations, they need fundraising, they need support, and especially at this time, let’s at least make it an awareness issue where you can learn and educate yourself, and then talk about it.”
Guthrie’s information is backed up by the most recent report from the University of Guelph’s Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA). Last year, 160 women and girls were killed violently in Canada, and in those times the perpetrator was identified it was most likely to be either a current or former partner of the victim, (50 per cent) or a male family member (26 per cent).
In a new piece on The Conversation, the founder and director of the CFOJA, Dr. Myrna Dawson, explained that part of the reason why women are so susceptible to being killed by someone they know is because the threat of public violence is treated with more immediacy and concern than private violence.
“Women are taught from a young age that it is ‘stranger danger’ that must be feared. Therefore, while learning early to ensure their own protection from unknown males, women and girls are increasingly at risk from men they know,” Dawson wrote.
“This is violence they cannot usually avoid by adjusting their daily routines or activities. Women and girls must go home sometime — if they have a home — otherwise their risk of public violence may increase,” Dawson added. “It is often ‘better the devil you know then the devil you don’t’ — a cliché, yes, but reality for many women and girls.”
Still, one of the worst examples of public violence against women will be remembered with an in-person commemoration during the 16 days of action. Women in Crisis is hosting a vigil in Marianne’s Park on December 6 at 6:30 pm to mark 32 years since the massacre at L’École Polytechnique in Montreal, where a terrorist driven by misogynist targeted and killed 14 women at the school.
Last year, the pandemic forced Women in Crisis to have a virtual commemoration for December 6. This year’s gathering at Marianne’s Park is the first in-person event hosted by Women in Crisis since the start of the pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, those living with violence have faced increased barriers in accessing support services and safe spaces. For all those who felt isolated, the horrible reality is that many have not survived. This should not be a reality that we come to accept,” Williams said in a statement. “December 6 is an opportunity to remember those women, honour their stories and unite in seeking justice and seeing change.”