Awareness and Remembrance, Staying Safe

International Women’s Day 2020-03-06

March 06, 2020

Violence Against Women in Canada: It Affects Us All

With the lead up to the global day celebration women and women’s rights, news headlines have been detailing the issues that women worldwide continue to face: lack of freedom, education, access to resources, and necessary supports, to name a few. In Canada, we are fortunate to have many freedoms not provided to women in other countries, yet we still have a ways to go. The #MeToo movement has helped women find the courage and support to come forward after sexual assaults, while also doing the same for women who are able to leave abusive partners. This is amazing. What’s not as amazing, however, is the lack of resources and support to help them with these transitions.

Survivors of sexual assault and abuse are waiting upwards of months, or even years, to access free services such as crisis support and counselling. Recent announcements by the Ontario government have advocates worried the situation will become even worse now that vital funding has not been renewed.

international woman's day graphic text with roses in a bike basket 

Intimate partner violence rates in Canada continue to be at crisis levels. Every 6 days, a woman in this country is killed by her intimate partner. Those in more vulnerable positions, such as newcomers to Canada, women with children, and those lacking financial means or support face increased odds when it comes to finding a safe place away from their abusers. Children who lived in violent homes, whether they experience it firsthand or witness it, will then find themselves twice as likely to experience psychiatric disorders as those who come from non-violent homes. To make matters worse, every month in Canada, 19,000 women and children are turned away from shelters. This means that women who have often fled dangerous situations have no safe place, for them or their children.

These statistics and realities are alarming, yet there still seems to be a lack of understanding that domestic abuse affects us all. It is not simply a private issue, in which the general public need not be affected. We can look at it from a financial perspective – collectively, each year, Canadians spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence. This also includes lost wages and productivity in the workforce.

Or from a humanistic viewpoint, we can understand that when one of us suffers, we all suffer. We cannot continue to ignore the tragedies occurring all around us – to our neighbours, our friends, our family members – or to simply cast them aside as “private issues.” Rather, domestic abuse must be viewed as a community issue, and one in which we tackle together. We need to ensure that women and children have the necessary supports they need, which includes safe spaces and homes, counselling, legal assistance, and financial assistance. We can be aware of the signs of intimate partner violence and learn how to help. And we can advocate for change at the top level. Our voices have power. When we stand together, we can create change at every level.

On this International Women’s Day, raise your voice to speak up for every woman who cannot do it for herself. Tell our leaders we need more support. Check in on your family, friends and neighbours. Every little action counts.