Violence Prevention Grey Bruce Launches 16 Days of Activism Campaign.
Every year since 1991, communities around the world have marked the 16 days between November 25 and December 10th as a time for awareness and activism to address gender-based violence. It begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and concludes on the international day for Human Rights. Almost 30 years after the 16 days of activism campaign was created, it is as necessary as ever. Violence Prevention Grey Bruce is participating in the 2019 campaign by releasing an article each day to highlight local challenges, services, and approaches to prevention.
Violence against women is a problem in Grey and Bruce counties like it is across Canada and all around the world. The violence takes many forms. In Canada, half of women experience some form of physical or sexual violence during their lifetime. Girls and young women are the most frequent victims of sexual violence and women aged 15-24 account for almost half of self-reported sexual assaults. The violence doesn’t end with adulthood. Women are also more likely to experience elder abuse and account for 60% of senior survivors of family violence. Physical and sexual violence is the easiest to identify but violence against women takes place in complex and subtle ways at every age between cradle and grave.
Violence against women can be mental, emotional, and economic. Stereotypes and discriminatory beliefs about women first plant the seeds of violence through the lessons we give our children. We teach children what we expect of girls with every “aren’t you beautiful”, “what a nice little girl”, and “isn’t she well behaved”. When we reward a girl for her appearance we teach her that body is her most valuable attribute. Boys are watching and learn to treat girls the same way. This is not to say that we shouldn’t affirm girls’ self confidence. Instead, we need to balance our feedback by making sure to also focus on girls’ intelligence, strength, humour, and talents.
When we teach girls that they have to be “nice” and take care of the people around them while disregarding their own needs, we set them up for unequal relationships later in life. When we encourage girls to pursue stereotypically feminine careers, we risk blocking out other passions and limiting their economic opportunities in stereotypically masculine fields like the trades. According to StatsCan, in 2018 female employees aged 25 to 54 earned 13.3% less per hour, on average, than their male counterparts. The gender pay gap diminishes women’s abilities to create stable and healthy lives for them and their families. Poverty also increases the risk for women experiencing intimate partner violence by creating economic barriers to leaving their abusers.
Stacking up these statistics is necessary to properly examine the issues but it also risks giving the impression that these problems are too big to solve. They are not. We can solve them but it is going to take work.
We are fortunate to live in an area where individuals and organizations are actively working to support survivors of gendered violence and to prevent its underlying causes. For women who need support after experiencing violence, the Women’s Centre Grey and Bruce and Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey offer emergency shelter, crisis lines, counseling, advocacy and court support. Victim Services can provide funding to support recent victims of violence. The Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Centre at Grey Bruce Health Services also offers on-going counselling to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence.
Many other groups are also working to raise awareness about and to prevent gender-based violence. The leadership class at Owen Sound District Secondary School is planning events and activities throughout the 16 days of activism to raise awareness among their peers and last year’s class created a video about consent. Local arts group Sheatre has interactive performances about relationship violence and elder abuse. Violence Prevention Grey Bruce is running an Arts for Change contest this winter to encourage students in grades 7-12 to create art about healthy relationships. The Men’s Program offers a group for men to examine and end their violence and another for fathers to expand and strengthen their approaches to parenting.
We start the 16 days of activism by affirming that there is good work happening in our community to address gender-based violence. The reality is also that the problem is pervasive, complex, and solutions will require every one of us. Keep an eye on our website and local media for more information over the next 16 days.
Jon Farmer is the Coordinator of Violence Prevention Grey Bruce.