From November 25-December 10, we took part in the 16 Days of Action on Violence Against Women remembered all of the women tragically and violently taken from us. We talked about the importance of providing more homeless shelter options and models for women who require a place to live, especially when fleeing an abusive partner. And we shared a powerful memoir detailing the pain and effects that a domestic violence murder trial has on loved ones. While we honour these women and advocate for change every single day, these poignant two weeks highlight the severity of this issue that affects women all around the world, across every socio-economic level and nationality. We cannot forget that we live in a world where women are still killed every single day, just because they are female.
Leave No One Behind is the theme of this year’s 16 Days of Action Campaign. This means that we need to be focusing strongly on the women who are underserved or marginalized, as they are often the ones who are left behind. Refugees, indigenous women, and those affected by conflict or natural disasters have a greater risk of domestic violence and generally the least amount of options.
Supporting women who are in abusive relationships is crucial. Women’s shelters, government funded services, police and court protection, and the support of family and friends are often paramount to a woman’s ability to leave or transform an abusive relationship. She needs to know that she will be safe, have the necessary supports and protection in place for her (and her children), and be able to survive financially. Non-judgmental support is also key.
We must continue having conversations about violence in relationships. Domestic abuse is not just a family issue. Domestic violence rarely stays inside the home, often following the woman to work or the children to school. It greatly affects mental health and can continue a generational cycle of violence and even result in public tragedies like mass shootings.
We’ve talked about how crucial it is to engage men in the fight against domestic violence, and this is a priority. We also need change on every level. We need to engage men, parents, family members, friends and co-workers, teaching them how to talk to abusive men, how to help someone being abused, and ultimately, how to help break the cycle of violence. We need change at the political level. Recently we have seen this come in the form of paid domestic violence leave. We need strong support from the workplace and mandatory training on domestic violence would be helpful. We continue to need strong laws and good implementation to protect victims of domestic violence. As we saw with the recent murders of three women in Renfrew County, the 30 charges and 15 convictions against the perpetrator were not enough to keep him behind bars or closely monitored in order to protect his former partners and victims. We also need change at a personal level. We have a duty as fellow humans to help, support and stand up for those whose voices are stifled by fear, isolation or marginalization.
Whether you speak up and help someone you know who is being abused, take action regarding a family member you know is abusive, or lobby your member of parliament for change, there is no shortage of action that every single one of us can take to help end domestic violence.