“When you see injustice, in your community, within your family, among your neighbours or friends, stand up. Don’t just sit idly by and let it happen. Stand up.” - Maggie Cywink
This is the message that Maggie Cywink left the audience with at our special bookclub event, where both Maggie DeVries and Maggie Cywink spoke about the murders of their sisters. What preceded both events was a lifetime of hardship and grief that led to the loss of life for both of these young women.
Maggie’s message of standing up to injustice is one that can be carried over to many avenues in life, and in particular, the issue of violence against women. We all have a responsibility in some way to help out. If you hear or see a neighbour being abused, if you believe a family member or friend is being abused, or if there is a member in your community who is suffering injustice, don’t just sit back. Speak up. Call someone. Talk to someone. Do something. As Maggie DeVries mentioned in her final message to the group, we need to look out for one another. No matter what stage someone is at in their life, and especially so if the stage is difficult or traumatizing, look out for that person. Continually check in with her, get help if you see or know that she is struggling, call someone for assistance. But never ever let it go.
The book club, run by Tanya Lee, is an interactive series targeted at young women of all races and ethnic backgrounds. There is a strong focus on mental health. Tanya hopes to inspire and empower females through the chosen books and subsequent events with authors. The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) was proud to host this book club event and we welcomed female high school students from all over London to join us. Maggie DeVries made a special trip from British Columbia to discuss her most recent book, Rabbit Ears. The story details the life and hardships of Kaya, who resorts to a life of addiction and sex work to help her escape from her demons, struggling through pain and eventually coming to a healing moment. The book is rooted in the life of Maggie’s own sister, Sarah, who was murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton.
Along with Maggie DeVries, we also welcomed Maggie Cywink, who spoke about the 1994 murder of her younger sister, Sonya Nadine Mae, as well as the work the government is doing in regards to the many missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. She spoke about the lifelong process of healing, as well as the large amount of work that still needs to be done with this national tragedy.
The topic of violence against women was strongly at the forefront of this event, with the idea that it can be difficult to understand our individual responsibility in ending violence until we really understand the depths of the pain and grief. We ensured there were numerous members from the community to support these young women attending in case any of them needing help dealing with difficult emotions that arose from this powerful event.
We ended the afternoon with the understanding that each person can play a role in ending violence against women. If you hear something, if you see something, if you know something, stand up and speak out. We all need to look out for one another.