Violence against women is pervasive, cruel, and preventable. As part of the Women Centre’s mandate to work for change and discuss social issues concerning women, we want to recognize the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day is part of a United Nations campaign to raise awareness and increase political will for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls all around the world.
What does the problem look like in Calgary and Canada?
Violence against women comes in many different forms: physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial, spiritual, harassment and stalking. It can happen to any woman regardless of class, age, race, origin, sexuality, or religion, although incidences are much higher among Aboriginal women within Canada. While violence against women happens for many reasons, its cause is rooted in the inherent social inequality between men and women in which men may feel the right to exert power and control over women. It is also important to know that women are more likely to be assaulted by someone they know, making family and domestic violence a concerning aspect of violence against women. In regards to spousal violence, women experience more highly severe and even fatal forms of violence than men. Every 6 days a woman is killed by her partner in Canada.
- There are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year and most go unreported. Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 33 are reported to the police, 29 are recorded as a crime, 12 have charges laid, 6 are prosecuted, and 3 lead to a conviction.
- Alberta is the second highest province for reported family violence. On one day in 2013, women’s shelters in Alberta housed 926 women and 1,102 children and turned away 99 women and 87 children due to lack of resources.
- Almost two-thirds of Calgarians are either personally affected by domestic violence or know someone who is. In 2013, 62% of women who accessed the Women’s Centre were or had been in a violent relationship.
What does the solution look like?
When dealing with violence against women, Canadian policy is largely based on reactive interventions rather than preventative measures. In the meantime, it has become increasingly clear among many organizations, including here in Calgary, that preventative measures are necessary to end violence against women. The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women recommends “engaging everyone to critically reflect on male power and privilege; to work to change negative attitudes toward women; and to construct and promote positive masculinities and femininities.”
Here are a few of the common suggestions for preventative programming:
- School-based healthy relationship programs from children and youth. Teens and youth are very focused on relationships, making this a critical time to teach them about healthy relationships and being able to recognize abusive behaviour.
- Bystander training programs. By encouraging men and women to recognize situations of violence and sexism in our communities, we are promoting lasting positive change in our society.
- Gender inequality reduction through empowering women. Gender inequality is a root cause of violence against women, and gender-based violence and inequality affects all genders.
- Preventative programs for men and boys. Societal perceptions of masculinity as being the opposite of femininity often results in men feeling pressure to assert themselves through aggression and anger. Women often end up bearing the brunt of this force.
Resources for Help and Information:
In Calgary, we are fortunate to have many organizations working to end violence against women through research, public awareness, prevention programs, and effective counselling responses.
Blog written by Women’s Centre volunteer Amanda A.