Personal Reflection on Violence against Women

Written By Samantha Kearney - BWSS Counsellor

On May 13th and 14th, 2002, the Justice Institute of BC organized a Violence Against Women Symposium held at the Coast Plaza Hotel in Vancouver. I was very fortunate to be asked to attend by the RWRC as a representative of the Centre. I was very excited and eager to attend the symposium since I volunteer not only at RWRC, but also at Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter (VRR). It would surely expand my knowledge of the issue and of the systems that are involved.

The symposium was informative on various levels - the current state of violence against women, the impact of recent government cutbacks on the issue of violence against women, and the direction of the future were all addressed. However, I found an essential component missing, one that is left out quite often, was action. We all know the issue of violence against women is still prominent in BC and the impact of the cutbacks will be disastrous for women and their children, but what are we going to about it? What course of action will each of us take? Such dialogue, I felt, was missing in the two day conference. It would have been a prime opportunity for organizations and workers to come together and discuss a course of concrete action. At times it just became an Introduction to Violence Against Women 101 course - what it is and how it impacts women. Most of us working in the field already know what it entails and how it affects women, children, and our society. What we do not know right now with very much certainty is how we can tell a woman leaving an abusive relationship "You'll be okay" with great confidence.

Monika Chappell, one of the speakers, talked about the myth that we are all equal. Marginalization of women based on race, color, age and so forth creates different power dynamics in relationships and impacts on the escalation of violence. Leaving an abusive relationship becomes increasingly difficult for immigrant women who face immigration uncertainty (e.g., withdrawal of sponsorship, deportation, and loss of their children), cuts to legal aid, language barriers, and social isolation.

Fatima Jaffer discussed various "silencing factors" that discourage women from leaving. Trivialization, for instance, is making the issue of violence against women unimportant, not a matter of great concern and attention. For instance, Attorney General's plan to have wife abuse cases diverted from the court system, I believe, is trivializing the issue. It is not taking the matter seriously, tossing it aside. Competition, dismissal, and appropriation are other "silencing factors" Jaffer discussed. We, women, men, anti-violence workers, policy-makers, all of us, have to fight these forces and let it be known that violence against women is an important issue which needs to be taken seriously by our government, courts, police, law makers, and so forth. It is not going to just disappear or be easily "swept under the rug". We are dealing with the lives of many women and children...perhaps one very close to you.

The situation with government cutbacks is very bleak; however, we must not get caught in the whirlpool of despair and hopelessness. There are still many women's organizations out there such as Vancouver Rape Relief, Women's Shelter (VRR) and us RWRC, who are determined to have their voices heard regarding the seriousness of violence against women and fighting against government cuts.

Recently VRR held a press conference to bring attention to BC Attorney General's plan to consider diversionary measures as a means to avoid charging wife abusers, putting more women in relationships at risk. Each year in September VRR organizes Take Back the Night March to raise awareness of what is happening to women and to raise unity among women. We cannot afford to be silent. Too many lives are at stake. We need to voice our concerns and fight for what is rightfully ours - safety, protection, and freedom.

If you are dealing with violence and need support, please call VRR at 604-872-8212. You can call anytime; the crisis line is open 24 hours a day.

If you need further information regarding violence against women, please call us, RWRC, at 604-279-7060.

We offer information, resources, peer support counseling, workshops, and activities. We also have information regarding government cuts (e.g., legal aid, social assistance, childcare subsidy program, etc.) and avenues you can use to protest and voice your concerns.