Combatting gender-based violence
November 25-December 10 is 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women
We want to pretend we live in a society that is just and good to all, but the stats are very sobering. Reported cases of gender-based violence are increasing. The United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women states that "almost one in three women have been subjected to intimate partner violence, non-partner violence or both."
If you think the picture is better at home, it's not. The Canadian Women's Foundation states that 67 per cent of Canadians know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse, while Manitoba has some of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the country. And the stark reality is Indigenous women are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women.
To make matters, worse, according to the UN, "Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified."
Perhaps the number of cases is increasing because more women are speaking up and able to report their experience now more than in the past thanks to the #MeToo movement and more supports in place. But while this is a move in the right direction, the harsh numbers show more needs to be done.
According to Judy Hill, a counsellor with Manitoba Blue Cross's Employee Assistance Program, when someone is held as inferior, it gives the other person "permission to marginalize, disenfranchise and target them. Gender-based violence is based in misogyny."
Misogyny — contempt, prejudice or even hatred for women- can be ingrained in society, organizations or people, and can show up in acts of emotional, financial, psychological and physical abuse of women that — on a societal level- are deemed justified and tolerated by gender inequity. This abuse can take place anywhere, from the home or workplace to public settings and even on the street.
What can we do about this?
"Women cannot prevent violence from occurring but what is possible and important is to provide women information both on the nature of abuse and on available help," says Hill, who holds a Master's Degree in Educational Psychology. "It is important to disseminate publicly information on the nature of abuse and who to call or where to go if you are at risk. This information can be displayed in health care settings, workplaces, educational facilities and local businesses. Some bars and restaurants post code words in women's washrooms that will alert staff to a dangerous situation."
Hill also offers a few suggestions that anyone can do to address gender-based violence around us:
- Identify and address the ways gender bias shapes our beliefs and lives. Consider how you react to things like equal pay for equal work, women in positions of power and leadership, and the contributions of women historically and their role in our future.
- Educate ourselves and others on the dynamics of healthy relationships and the signs that indicate a relationship is unsafe.
- Educate youth on healthy and respectful relationships and name behaviours that are unacceptable and abusive.
- Listen to women who indicate they are at risk and respond by identifying abusive behaviour and providing information about available resources.
"On a collective level, we can advocate for increased funding and resources to support women impacted by gender-based violence. We can challenge societal norms that diminish a person's worth because of gender," Hill adds.
November 25 to December 10 is 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence — an international campaign designed to raise awareness and action towards ending violence against women. The campaign begins on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on International Human Rights Day. These dates were strategically chosen to emphasize the fact that violence against women is a human rights issue. This time period also includes the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women to honour the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre, a gender-based act of violence at l'Ã‰cole Polytechnique de Montréal, as well as those women who die each year due to violence.
If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety due to gender-based violence or domestic violence, please call 911 or your local emergency services or go to the emergency room of your nearest hospital.
If you're experiencing domestic abuse and need support, please reach out to a friend or family member or contact Klinic's 24/7 Crisis Line at 204.786.8686 or 1.888.322.3019 (toll free). You can also seek assistance with the Government of Manitoba's Domestic Violence Support Service.
Manitoba Blue Cross’s counselling services are available to all Manitobans, regardless of whether or not you have coverage with Manitoba Blue Cross. Find the available support that's right for you here or call 204.786.8880 or 1.800.590.5553 (toll free). Regardless of your coverage, if you are experiencing domestic abuse, call Manitoba Blue Cross's Employee Assistance Program for information and resources.
Unsure of your coverage? Confirm your eligibility in your mybluecross® account.