Violence Against Women Must Stop
Prince George, B.C. – The message is starkly clear, violence against women, meaning young girls, adult women and elderly women, must end.
A march honouring women who have suffered violence and not survived as well as women who have survived both physical and sexual violence was held in downtown Prince George Friday evening.
The Take Back the Night march returned to the city after being put on hold last year. And the message that was repeatedly impressed upon the minds of the people who gathered at City Hall by the five speakers who addressed them was that violence against women cannot and must not be tolerated by any facet within our society.
The co-chair of the Surpassing Our Survival (SOS) Society and associate professor at UNBC, Dawn Hemingway, noted that “this is the 24th annual Take Back the Night in Prince George. Congratulations women. Take Back the Night is something that is dear to the hearts of all of us. It recognizes and is a memorial to those women who have been lost to violence, recognizing those who have survived and also fighting as hard as we can and as consistently as we can to end all violence.
Hemingway pointed out that “in Prince George, beginning in 1992, with a number of community agencies and activists coming together, we had our first Take Back the Night march. And although I think we can all say that we’ve made some progress over the years, facts about domestic violence, about sexual violence in British Columbia show very clearly that we have a long way to go.”
“Some of those facts are that every year in British Columbia there are over 60,000 physical or sexual assaults against women, almost all of them committed by men. Only 12% of sexual assaults against women are reported to the police. Over 60% of British Columbians personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted. One in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and nationally the number of missing and murdered indigenous women is an unspeakable crime.”
“We know all too well about the women who are missing in the downtown of Vancouver and very close to us in northern B.C., we can virtually see it from here, is (Highway 16). This is a situation that shows us and is a constant reminder of just how completely unacceptable the current situation is and how there is so very much left to be done.”
“And there is also violence against older women, violence that is often invisible and simply categorized as elder abuse. Within northern British Columbia we have the fastest-growing aging population in the province. Ending violence against older women is of crucial importance. This violence must not remain hidden.”
She says ending violence against women has to be a priority of more than just the volunteers, front line workers and family members who have limited or no resources. “It must be a priority,” she says “of governments at all levels and not just in words. We need commitment of resources, concrete steps that actually support women experiencing violence. Words are not enough.”
Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris, who is also BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor-general, revealed that “domestic violence is something that I grew up with as a small child and lived through all kinds of torturous situations within our household. And as a police officer for 32 years I saw the results of domestic violence and sexual abuse throughout British Columbia. It’s a priority for our government to address it, it’s something that we need to stop.”
“We’ve got a vision to have a violence-free BC. As Dawn said, we have a long way to go, and without everybody’s help and participating and everybody’s oar in the water we won’t get there.”
He noted the government’s Say Something campaign and said “from my experience there’s too many people that don’t say anything. They live next door, they’ve got relatives, they don’t say anything they don’t support the individual who is being subjected to the domestic violence or sexual abuse, and it goes on and on and on for years.”
“The other part of that is very few sexual abuse situations are reported to the police. The criminal process that we have in Canada is to the letter of the law and it needs to be that way, but we need to find a different process that, if somebody is subjected to sexual abuse we need to find a process that is safe for them to come and speak to somebody in authority, somebody to disclose what has taken place to them, and safe for the individual that was responsible for committing those crimes to admit to it and find some kind of a resolution without going through that visceral criminal process that we have, where you’re disclosing intimate details to the police and then disclosing that when it comes to trial.”
Lisa Loewen with the John Howard Society said the Stop Taking it Out on your Partner (STOP) program is something “where we teach men how to be healthy individuals and how to have better ways to communicate and how to really learn to love themselves. We strongly believe that if we have healthy men, we’re going to have healthy women.”
“I stand in front of you as a victim of rape and domestic violence, but also as a survivor. Each and every one of us here knows somebody who’s been down the road of being hurt, and we know that hurt people hurt. So I, from the bottom of my heart, want to extend love to everybody on this full moon night, where we can embrace the power of women. Whether we are mothers or not we are mothers to each other, and that matters.”
UNBC professor of Social Work, Si Transken, said “I turned 56 this week, my father sexually abused me through my whole childhood and the last five years we’ve been going through the court system with this story. We started with seven of us who were prepared to go to court against him. He’s been able to change his lawyer three times, I’m not sure where it’s all going to end, the next court date is August 26th. So, maybe I’ll stand up here again next year, and the year after and the year after.”
She questions whether there are enough structures in place to help victims, enough police officers, lawyers, para-legals. It’s not enough to just have people say kind things to each other and notice what your neighbour has gone through. If my mother had been able to leave when we were children, he was beating her up also, he probably still is, if she’d been able to leave, get a good-paying job with a decent minimum wage, had there been adequate subsidized housing, had there been all kinds of structural supports, this kind of stuff is way bigger than a hug and words and showing up.”
“It’s structural stuff. My understanding is 37 women’s resource shelters lost one hundred percent of their funding about ten years ago. Those resource centres were places that would have helped women, would have supported women who are like my mother.”
“So having said that,” stated Transken, “you might notice that I’m a little bit sour and bitchy. I wear it proudly.”
With that the crowd of women and children headed out on a 30-minute walk through a portion of the downtown core, proclaiming their right to be there with chants of “Women unite, take back the night” “No more silence, no more violence” and “Wherever we go, however we dress, No means No and yes means yes.”