By Sue Tiffin

Quietly last month, a purple flag was raised at the Minden Hills township office to support women and raise awareness of gender-based violence. That violence often occurs without many of us knowing, too, but it happens daily in homes throughout our county to women we know, work with and live alongside.

One in three women will experience gender-based violence in their lifetime, and last year in Ontario, every 13 days a woman or child was killed by a man known to them – numbers that are much higher for Black women, Indigenous women and women of colour, and numbers that are higher due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in more barriers for survivors to access support and services. 

The list of women who died by femicide over the past year in Ontario was released on Dec. 1 and includes 58 names of victims ranging in age from two to 89. That’s a 52.6 per cent increase in the number of femicide victims recorded by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses in the past year. Most commonly, femicide victims were killed by their intimate partners or family members.

On Dec. 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, results of a 16-month CBC investigation analyzing 392 cases of the 488 intimate-partner homicides that occurred across Canada between Jan. 2015 and June 2020 were published. Findings from that investigation show that at least one warning sign prior to the murder existed in more than a third of cases, the most common of those signs being recent separations, exercising coercive control over the victim, and previous reports to police.

Every day, Violence Against Women shelters and programming are essential spaces specifically designed for the safety of women and children who are survivors of abuse and violence. On the outside, they appear quiet – you might walk or drive by the YWCA Haliburton Emergency Rural SafeSpace each day without paying much attention to it.

On the inside, work is being done to support women by providing help to find safe, affordable housing, navigate the justice system, support children through community-based children’s services, and offer a safe space to stay away from abusive and violent situations.

Our local SafeSpace has been fully occupied since January 2021, and the team there has experienced more than a 20 per cent increase in the number of women requiring transition support services.  

The Wrapped in Courage campaign, which aims to raise awareness of gender-based violence, recommends 16 actions to end violence against women and prevent femicide. Among those actions, it’s recommended that we contact Laurie Scott, our local MPP, by phone or email to ask for more support in ending gender-based violence within our community, volunteer or donate to our local shelter, and challenge harmful stereotypes and myths that perpetuate gender inequality.  

While the emphasis is so often on women taking the first step, and having the courage to escape an abusive situation, it takes an entire community to offer support for that first step to be easier and more realistic to take. Becoming more aware of gender-based violence is a first step we can all take.

For more information or to donate online, visit ywcahaliburton.org. Donations made before midnight on Dec. 31 will be matched dollar for dollar by a group of generous supporters from Haliburton County and Peterborough. 

A 24-hour support and crisis line is available if you would like to speak to someone about your options, are concerned about your safety or your children’s safety, need someone to talk to, or are ready to leave and wonder if there’s a safe place to go. Call 1-800-461-7656 or text 705-991-0110.