One day, we hope December 6th will be a day when we remember the way things used to be. That we honour victims past and not have to add new names to the list of victims year after year after year. The only path to this reality where women no longer lose their lives to gender-based violence is meaningful, sustained and fully resourced action.
It’s not ok that women are at a 20% higher risk of violent victimization than men, and that women living with disabilities and LGBT2SQ+ women face increased violence. It is not ok that Indigenous women are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women. It is not ok that immigrant women don’t report domestic violence for fear of deportation. And it is definitely not ok that Manitoba’s rate of violence against women is double the national rate. But it’s never too late to take action and end gender-based violence. We must start getting this right.
There has been some action. We applaud the Winnipeg Police Service, Klinic, Ka Ni Kanichihk and Mount Carmel Clinic for developing Third Party Reporting, allowing survivors the option of reporting the details of their case anonymously to the WPS through one of these three community-based organizations. We appreciate that Winnipeg was the first city in Canada to join the United Nations Safe Cities Initiative to reduce sexual violence against women and girls, bringing the municipal and provincial governments and community agencies together to co-create solutions. We appreciate the Provincial Government for focussing on initiatives to prevent violence against women. And we honour all the front line staff across Manitoba who support women who experience violence every day.
However, there is so much more to do. Last year, 94% of the participants in the West Central Women’s Resource Centre mentorship program were currently or have historically experienced domestic violence. That’s why we are working with provincial and federal governments to launch an innovative domestic violence program that offers healing to women and also opportunity for perpetrators and children to receive support. We hope to launch this program in early 2019.
It is time to fully recognize that family and gender-based violence is a pervasive public health and social justice issue. It is time to meaningfully invest in ending it by adequately funding:
- public education;
- training on victims’ perspectives for law enforcement and justice personnel;
- curriculum changes at all levels to educate children and youth on healthy relationships; and
- healing for victims and support programs for perpetrators to stop the cycle of violence.
Together we can make December 6th a day when we remember victims of a long-over epidemic of gender-based violence, rather than a current crisis that needlessly claims and ruins lives.