Each day, more than 3,000 women in Canada live in emergency shelters to escape domestic violence
By Mary Zilney
Special to the Post
Many young girls have dreams of being princesses and falling in love with Prince Charming. When they grow up, they might believe they have found their Prince Charming. If only we could all count on the fairytale ending of living happily ever after.
November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month in Ontario. Since 1986, we’ve held an annual community forum to heighten awareness about violence against women and the necessity for the community to come together to address it.
Some people still refer to violence against women as, “not very serious” or a “private” matter. These are attitudes that can and need to be changed.
On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
How can we have come so far in society in so many other areas, but still view domestic violence as a private matter?
Why aren’t we collectively doing a better job of ending violence against women so that the next generation will grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults?
In our society, both men and women receive many messages — both blatant and covert — that men are more important than women. In this context, it becomes easier for a man to believe that he has the right to be in charge and to control a woman, even if it takes violence. This is not only wrong, it’s against the law.
The United Nations 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 in private life.”
Our community needs to rally together to break the silence. We need to break through the layers and barriers that continue to inhibit open dialogue.
That’s why this year our theme is “Let’s talk about it” and we invited Lavon Morris-Grant to share her experience of abuse in a middle-class family where her husband knew he couldn’t hit her.
Let’s openly talk about violence against women and find solutions together to reduce and eventually eliminate its existence in Waterloo Region.
This year, we’re doing that by starting a conversation with young women who may not be aware of the signs of abuse nor what to do if they see them in their relationship or others relationships. We’re starting here because we want to stop the intergenerational cycle of abuse. We’re also concerned that our research shows young women have a low awareness of Women’s Crisis Services and our unique role in our communities.
We want young women to know the signs of abuse so they know if their Prince Charming is turning into Prince Harming. We want them to know what to do if they see signs of an unhealthy relationship and how we can help them —even if they don’t use our shelters.
We have created a series of videos to bring abusive relationships to the attention of young women so that they can act before they are victims of violence.
We are sharing them using Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Please watch, share and join the conversation. They can all be found on our website: wcswr.org/charming.
Signs of abuse in relationships
• Violent outbursts
• Isolation from family and friends
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
• Physical assault
• Fear for self or children
• Threats of violence or harm
• Threats of destruction of property
• Insults or put downs
• Jealousy or accusations of cheating
• Broken promises to change
• Control of all the money
• Forced sexual acts
• • •
Mary Zilney is the chief executive officer of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.