Declaring Gender-Based Violence an Epidemic
From November 25 until December 10, 2023, the YW Kitchener-Waterloo will stand alongside other women and equity-serving organizations in recognition of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. This year’s theme is: Unite! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls. It focuses on how we, as a community, can be instrumental in creating a world free of gender-based violence.
Will you stand with us? Here are a few things you can do:
Action: Call on our Provincial Government to take action by declaring intimate partner violence an epidemic.
Across the province, municipalities, up to 72 communities, have declared intimate partner violence an epidemic. Here, in Waterloo Region, all three cities have declared the pervasive issue an epidemic.
The declaration comes after a landmark inquest last year into the 2015 deaths of Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton and Anastasi Kuzyk in Renfrew County. The inquest, which focused on preventing similar tragedies, made 86 recommendations, with the first being declaring partner violence an epidemic.
The Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH) is a coalition of emergency women’s shelters and community-based women’s organizations which work towards ending violence against all women. The coalition shines a light on gender-based killings known as femicides.
Stark numbers show a woman or girl is killed every other day, on average, somewhere in our country, points an annual report from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability based at the University of Guelph. About once a week, a woman is killed by her male partner in Canada.
Just last month, Angie Sweeney of Sault Ste. Marie was killed, along with three children, by a male partner. In October alone, there were nine femicides in Ontario, says OAITH.
We call on all levels of government to urgently prioritize the prevention of gender-based violence. Here, at the YW, our goal is to assist women in reaching gender justice by offering those we serve a safe place to land with supports as they transition to more permanent housing.
Learn: how gender-based violence shows up in the world around you, and the difference its eradication could make.
For the first time in a long time, Chrissy has her own personal space where she feels safe.
Chrissy, who is 42 now, was born in Kelowna, B.C. and when we met to talk about her experiences of gender-based violence, she told us that her trauma began at home, living with her mother who was addicted to prescription drugs and worked in the sex trade. At the age of eight, Chrissy was sexually assaulted by her mother’s dealer and sent to live with her father. She later returned only to leave again when the abuse continued. She said she was using drugs by the age 15.
Chrissy lived in the east side of Vancouver for more than 10 years and said her violence continued to cause her life to spiral. In 2016, she landed in Ontario and in a relationship, which she fled seeking safety in Anselma House, a place for women experiencing domestic violence.
With nowhere to go, Chrissy lived in tents near Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener and stayed on and off at the YW Emergency Shelter on Frederick Street for six years.
She lives in a new supportive housing program exclusively for women, transgender, Two Spirit and otherwise gender-diverse individuals who experienced long term homelessness.
She is among 40 other women in this program and has been a resident since it opened in April 2022.
When the Block Line housing project opened, Chrissy worked with Lutherwood and other community supports to make sure she was a candidate for this innovative, first of its kind, program.
“The bruises go away” but the internal, emotional scars remain. Chrissy talked about how she often isolates herself with her thoughts which include her nine-year-old daughter and a 25-year-old son who is now a father with his own son.
The healing will take time and the prolonged trauma doesn’t end because your home is safe. It’s a different form of survival but one Chrissy says she is trying to relearn. Her two pet cats allow her to love unconditionally and care for someone other than herself.