Break the Silence, End the Violence! Are you in a Healthy Relationship?

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A wonderful group of Selkirk students organized an event last week in the Castlegar  Campus Pit  to bring awareness to issues surrounding violence against women.  This is part of an international campaign  of  16 Days of activism to end Violence Against Women and Girls

In addition, Dec. 6 is a Canadian National Day of Remembrance for the 14 Quebecois students who were shot for being female:

Just in case we are feeling smug at Selkirk College when we hear about all the hullabaloo happening at UBC or in other parts of the country and world, the same students who organized this great educational event, also put up posters earlier in the fall to advertise a group that wanted to meet to explore Gender Issues.  All of their posters were defaced with ugly, hateful comments which was extremely disheartening and intimidating.   In addition, several female students have recently spoken out about their experiences of being stalked and intimidated.    So – we still have a long way to go as a global community, but this Selkirk student-led event was a great example of  how a group of gutsy college citizens can step forward with courage to make our campus and world  a safer and healthier place for everyone.

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Are you in  Healthy Relationship?

  • Do you feel safe?
  • Is there respectful listening?
  • Can you express your opinion?
  • Is there equality in finances and decision-making?
  • Do you have fun together?
  • Do you enjoy time apart and enjoy some of your own friends and interests?
  • Can you talk through difficulties or misunderstandings?
“Relationship Violence is a pattern of behavior where one person uses threats, or actually uses, verbal, sexual, emotional or physical abuse to control their partner.”

If you are wondering whether your relationship is healthy –

  • Make an appointment with a Selkirk Counsellor:  365-1273 or 352-6601
  •  Phone the Crisis Line 1-888-353-2273 – they are available 24/7 with non-judgmental listening and can help with referrals and planning your next steps
  •  Talk to your local community services, women’s centre or transition house to get more information

In addition, check out this great site with lots of facts about the state of gender-based violence in Canada:

with some of the following info and advice:

What should I do if I think someone is being abused?

  • If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 or the emergency number in your community.
  • Put her safety first. Never talk to anyone about abuse in front of their suspected abuser. Unless she specifically asks for it, never give her materials about domestic abuse or leave information through voice messages or emails that might be discovered by her abuser. However, abuse thrives in secrecy, so speak up if you can do so safely.
  • If she wants to talk, listen. If she doesn’t, simply tell her she does not deserve to be harmed and that you are concerned for her safety. Ask her if there is anything you can do to help, but don’t offer to do anything that makes you uncomfortable or feels unsafe.
  • If she decides to stay in the relationship, try not to judge her. Remember, leaving an abuser can be extremely dangerous. Sometimes, the most valuable thing you can offer a woman who is being abused is your respect.
  • Learn about emergency services in your community, such as your local women’s shelter or sexual assault centre. Search on-line, or consult the front pages of your telephone directory.

Since crime rates in Canada are falling, is violence against women still a serious problem?

  • Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.1
  • 67% of all Canadians say they personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted.2
  • On average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.  In 2011, In 2011, from the 89 police reported spousal homicides, 76 of the victims (over 85%) were women.3
  • On any given day in Canada, more than 3,300 women (along with their 3,000 children) are forced to sleep in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence. Every night, about 200 women are turned away because the shelters are full. 4
  • Each year, over 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence—that’s about 12% of all violent crime in Canada.5 Since only 22% of all incidents are reported to the police, the real number is much higher.
  • As of 2010, there were 582 known cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.
  • The cost of violence against women in Canada for health care, criminal justice, social services, and lost wages and productivity has been calculated at $4.8 billion per year.10
  • More than one in ten Canadian women say they have been stalked by someone in a way that made them fear for their life.16

Who is most at risk?

  • Violence against women happens in all cultures and religions, in all ethnic and racial communities, at every age, and in every income group.
  • According to both police-reported and self-reported data, younger women are at a much higher risk of violent victimization. 50 66% of all female victims of sexual assault are under the age of twenty-four (11% are under the age of eleven). 51  The rates of violent crime against women aged 15 to 24 is 42% higher than rates for women aged 25 to 34, and nearly double than the rates for women aged 35 to 44. 52 Women aged 15 to 24 are killed at nearly three times the rate for all female victims of domestic homicide.

Can violence against women ever be stopped?

  • Although some people may think violence against women is not very serious or is a ‘private’ matter, these attitudes can be changed. Drinking and driving was once treated almost as a joke, but thanks to strong advocacy campaigns, it is no longer socially acceptable and is subject to serious criminal penalties. In the same way, public education, violence prevention programs, and a strong criminal justice response can bring about an end to violence against women in Canada.


1 The Violence Against Women Survey, Statistics Canada, 1993. Although more up-to-date data would be preferable, no future Statistics Canada survey asked women about their life-time experience of violence. Available:

Finally, here are  three excerpts from three amazing young Canadian women living and working in Zambia, Ethiopia and Nicaragua.  Check-out their blogs to get further insights into the complexities and successes in addressing gender based violence in an international context:

My roommates and I have got to know two people who work at Innovation for Poverty Action. IPA in Zambia is working on project that teaches school-aged girls negotiation and debating skills, in the hopes that this will give them tools to strengthen their positions when dealing with authority figures (which in Zambia can mean anyone from a parent to a husband to a male store owner). They’re only a little over half-way through the mid-line right now, so it’s hard to say how successful the project will actually be, but I like the idea and I think it’s appropriate way to work in a community around gender dynamics; it puts the tools in the hands of community members who will be able to use them far more effectively than any outside ever would.

Despite a number of laws put in place to protect women’s health, safety and access to resources in the past 15 years or so, actual enforcement remains minimal and traditional views on gender are still majorly influential. Organizations like SEDA are working on the ground to eliminate harmful traditional practices like early marriage and motherhood, polygamy and widow inheritance. But progress is slow, and these issues probably get more attention than more widespread issues like domestic violence and restrictive property ownership. And then there are those issues no one likes to talk about, like female genital mutilation, which I was shocked to find out has been practiced on an estimated 70-80% of the population.

I’ve been pretty hesitant about writing about all this. As a visitor in another country, I can’t really pretend to understand the complexities of gender relations in this context. And, given the history of white feminism’s colossal failure to grasp the reality of anything that doesn’t have to do with white women’s issues, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m missing something major. I guess what I’m trying to illustrate is what it’s like to try to reconcile your values with those of the culture you’re living in. In a different context things get a bit disorienting.

It is with law 779 recently implemented and the recognition of gender-based violence as a health and social problem, that Risk yourself, Involve yourself, Transform yourself approaches gender inequality in its work with youth and children. Against the background of a predominantly patriarchal society, the project seeks to reduce violence against women and in the community by tackling deeply rooted notions of masculinity, gender roles and stereotypes, and by promoting women’s participation and access to decision making in solidarity with men.

Discussing Gender Roles with a group of children in Nicaragua:

Discussing gender roles with children in the community of Isidrillo


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