By: DEQA AHMED
Up to 70 per cent of women will experience some form of violence in their lifetime, according to the United Nations. Even in Ottawa, cases of violence against women are reported each year, including the rape of a young woman at Heron Station in October and two reported sexual assaults by taxi drivers this month.
As part of a global campaign to end such violence against women, the UN has designated Nov. 25 of every year International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Bailey Reid, coordinator of the Sexual Assault Network of Ottawa, says days like this are a positive way to raise awareness and address the root causes of violence, rather than reacting.
“The only time we hear about violence against women in the press is when something has happened, if a woman has been assaulted, or a woman has been murdered by her partner,” says Reid.
“Any kind of event that we do around violence against women, they raise awareness and they bring public education in a more positive way, so they’re not reactionary, they’re more positive,” she says.
Julie Lalonde, an activist who recently received the Governor General’s award for her work to end violence against woman, says that in order to eliminate the issue, society must get to the root of the problem, rather than just dealing with the aftermath.
“We need to do more violence prevention, support victims’ families, strengthen our legal response and implement a zero tolerance policy on a societal level,” says Lalonde.
“Violence against women remains a crisis in every country around the globe,” she says. “Canada is by no means immune to this problem.”
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
Reid says violence against women has become persistent because the right message is not being expressed. Rather than getting to the root of the problem, Reid says that society consistently looks to women to change their behaviour.
“We tell women to stay in to stay safe, women shouldn’t take the bus, women shouldn’t take cabs anymore by flagging them down,” she says.
“We need to start changing the message and talking to young men about consent, and healthy sexuality, and respect for women, and rape culture,” she says.
Both women agree that days designated to the issue of violence against women help to raise awareness and change the message that is currently being conveyed.
“Instead of the reactionary messaging we’ve been hearing, let’s start talking about prevention of violence against women, and addressing the roots causes – things like patriarchy and misogyny,” says Reid.