Violence against women is not a woman’s issue, it is a human rights issue and devastating threat to gender equality. November is Woman Abuse Prevention month in Ontario… It is a time of heightened awareness and opportunities for the public to learn more about this growing pandemic. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as “any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.
Like an illness, abuse has a myriad of symptoms and manners in which it presents itself to us. Regardless of whether it is physical, emotion, verbal or sexual, there is no home remedy or ‘quick fix’. Rather, as a society, we must look towards building awareness of the red flags, which tend to be overlooked. It is important that we educate ourselves and others about the prevalence of women abuse.
According to the Ontario Women’s Directorate, 7% of Ontario women living in a common-law or marital relationship reported experiencing physical/sexual assault by a spousal partner at least once between 1994 and 2014. Yet less than one quarter of victims of spousal violence report to the police. The statistics below demonstrate the importance of Woman Abuse Prevention month. They are taken from “the facts about violence against women” by the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
- All Canadians pay a steep price for violence against women. It’s estimated that each year, Canadians collectively spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence alone, according to the Department of Justice. This figure includes immediate costs, such as emergency room visits and related costs, such as loss of income. It also includes tangible costs such as funerals, and intangible costs such as pain and suffering.
- Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
- 67% of all Canadians say they have personally known at least one woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse.
- About 80% of sex trafficking victims in Canada are women and girls.
- More than one in 10 Canadian women say they have been stalked by someone in a way that made them feel unsafe or fear for their life.
- Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Out of the 83 police-reported intimate partner homicides in 2014, 67 of the victims—over 80%—were women.
- On any given night in Canada, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters to escape abuse.
- On any given night in Canada, about 300 women and children are turned away because shelters are already full.
- There were 1,181 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada between 1980 and 2012, according to the RCMP. However, according to grassroots organizations and the Minister of the Status of Women the number is much higher, closer to 4,000. Aboriginal women are killed at six times the rate of non-aboriginal women.
- Women are at greater risk of experiencing elder abuse from a family member, accounting for 60% of senior survivors of family violence.
- Cyber violence, which includes online threats, harassment, and stalking, has emerged as an extension of violence against women. Young women (age 18-24) are most likely to experience online harassment in its most severe forms, including stalking, sexual harassment and physical threats.
Women living with, leaving, or healing from an abusive experience, suffer in multiple forms and frequently on a daily basis. Sometimes, abuse can be easily identifiable, while others are covert in nature. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the different types: financial; psychological or emotional; physical; sexual; verbal; cyberbullying; social; spiritual; environmental; harassment/stalking/intimidation. To know the categories is one thing, however, to recognize yourself in the circumstances is the challenge. There are no boundaries, as abuse is not mutually-exclusive to romantic relationships. Furthermore, it is well documented that abuse escalates in frequency and severity over time. This is especially true with physical violence.
Abuse has nothing to do with love and everything to do with power and control! Why is it always the victim who has to provide evidence and proof, and even when there is ample of that? Why is the abuser being either mildly admonished, given a minimum sentence, or not held accountable at all? (And the victim is subject to public ridicule and called a liar, or mentally unstable, etc.) We must take critical action to end gender-based violence and continue to empower and inspire women. As a community, we should amplify opportunity and build inclusive communities where violence against women and girls will not be tolerated.
Consider all of the wonderful women and girls in your life. Now, think about the fact that half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Acknowledging and seeing injustice happening in front of us, when we turn our faces…we invariability legitimatize it and allow for the corruption of our own values. Canadians need to admit that gendered violence is at an epidemic proportion.
Each one of us has a responsibility to play a role, as individuals, to protect those we love and to our future, where women and girls are respected and treated as equals in every facet of life. I will never tell a woman that she must leave, as only she knows when she is ready. But, if you are a woman living with abuse, please know that there are services, agencies, and people who care and will help.
Wondering what you can do to prevent Violence Against Women? How will you contribute to ending it? Here are some suggestions: recognize inequality and encourage change; confront sexism, racism, ableism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of oppression; support women through empowerment; encourage them to take control of their own bodies, wages and lives; advocate for ending violence, poverty, homelessness and the oppression of women and children.
We have a choice and a moral compass. Refuse to be silenced… we have a voice! It can start out as a whisper, turn into a scream and made into a beautiful noise… shoulder to shoulder banding together… from the mouths of our mothers… from the lips of our daughters, we can call out the wrong.