Violence Against Women

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When we talk about violence against women, we largely talk about statistics and numbers.

We point out that half of Canadian women have survived at least one incident of sexual or physical violence. We show how over a quarter (29%) of Canadian women have been assaulted by a spouse. We note that one to two women per week were killed by their spouse or ex-spouse, boyfriend or ex-boyfriend in 1998.

We tell you that 98% of sex offenders are men and 82% of the survivors of these assaults are girls and women.

We demonstrate that pregnancy, youth, disability, poverty, being Aboriginal and belonging to a minority racial group have all been linked to an increased exposure to violence against women.

Over the past twenty years, governments in Canada have not only seen these statistics, but commissioned or funded numerous studies that reported them. They have also heard from women's groups who quote these statistics, and further document the problems while cleaning up the mess as best they can.

You only have to hear a few of these statistics to see a very sad picture of the state of violence against women in Canada. What is more sad is that in spite of the numerous reports available no action has been taken by Canadian governments on the majority of their recommendations.

At the time of press the World March of Women in Canada was not even granted a meeting with our Prime Minister to discuss plans and demands for ending poverty and violence against women.

It is activists, groups and coalitions of groups like the World March of Women who have refused to give this issue up. We see some hope in the fact that women's groups and individuals across Canada continue to take action and responsibility.

What follows is a list of ten things we each can do to end violence against women. It's up to us to help stop the violence that surrounds us. It's also up to us to force our government to listen and to respond to the volumes of statistics.

The above statistics and more can be found from the fact-sheet "Violence Against Women and Girls", published by: The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women

151 Slater Street, Suite 408 Ottawa Ontario K1P 5H3

Tel: (613) 563_0681 Fax: (613) 563_0682

Ten Things Anyone Can Do To End Violence Against Women
by Jennifer Howard

1. Listen to women and believe them. When women tell you about violence they have experienced in their lives - believe them. Often we don't want to believe that horrible things happen to people we care about, especially when other people we care about are the perpetrators. It is extremely rare for a woman to make up a story about rape or abuse. You may be the first and only person she tells. Believe her and support her decisions, without being judgmental.

2. Heal the violence in your own life. Most of us are survivors of some type of violence. Almost everybody fears becoming a victim of violence. Take care of yourself and do what you can to help yourself heal - emotionally and physically. Get counselling. Join a support group. Most women's shelters offer some type of free counselling and support.

3. Break the silence. When you're ready, tell other people your own story of survival. Breaking the silence about our experiences reduces the shame that surrounds abuse and can empower other people to talk about their own experiences.

4. Make violence your business. Most of us grew up with the idea that we're not supposed to ask questions about other people's families or relationships - especially if there seems to be trouble. Keeping violence against women private helps no one. If you believe that someone is being abused - ask them. They might not tell you right away, but it will send a signal that you are someone they can trust. If you don't know how to handle the news that someone you know is being abused, call your local women's shelter or crisis line for advice. Don't put yourself in danger by intervening in a violent situation. Call the police.

5. Raise non-violent children. Talk to the children in your life about violence. Help them find non-violent ways of resolving conflict. Encourage imaginative, co-operative and non-violent play. Challenge socialized gender roles. Don't use violence (spanking) as punishment.

6. Use your time, energy and money to promote women's equality. Women make up the vast majority of victims of relationship and sexual violence. Get involved in organizations working to end poverty and violence against women. Make donations. Sit on your union's Women's Committee. Start a group dedicated to ending violence against women. Vote for political parties with concrete plans and policies to increase women's equality.

7. Speak out against negative media images. The media often uses images of violence against women to sell products. If you see an ad or commercial that you find offensive - write/ fax/ e-mail the company. If acts of violence against women on television are passed off as entertainment, complain to the Broadcast Standards Council or the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Make your own woman-positive media.

8. Help girls protect themselves. Help the girls in your life develop confidence and strong self-esteem. Let them know they're important as individuals - in or out of a relationship. Talk frankly to them about sex and dating, stressing respect and their right to choose.

9. Encourage people who commit violence to get help. Don't judge. Let them know their behaviour is unacceptable and that there are counsellors and support groups to help them change.

10. Remember. Participate in acts of remembrance for victims of violence like the annual December 6 Vigil in memory of the victims of the Montreal Massacre. Celebrate survival.

Reproduced with permission from the Network, the magazine of the Canadian Women's Health Network.


Resources

Breaking free from partner abuse: voices of battered women caught in the cycle of domestic violence
Mary Marecek Morning Glory Press, 1999
 
Invisible Wounds : A Self-Help Guide for Women in Destructive Relationships
Kay Douglas Women's Press, 1996
 
A Narrow Doorway : Women's Stories of Escape From Abuse
Fern Martin General Strore Publishing House, 1996
 
National Film Board of Canada videos
How Then Shall We Live, 1999
Behind Closed Doors: A Multicultural Documentary on Family Violence, 1998
Francis & Terry A Case in Spousal Abuse, 1998 Violence Against Women: Breaking the Silence, 1995

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