Brenda Hartwell

by Brenda Hartwell


In 2020, 160 women and girls were killed by violence in Canada. In 2021, 173 women and girls were killed by violence. This is a concerning increase from 118 women and girls killed by violence in 2019. (Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, 2020 and 2021. )


Here we are again. In an effort to work toward positive change, the Lennoxville and District Women’s Centre will once again be publishing articles in The Record to raise awareness concerning violence against women and girls.


The global theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is: “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”. The campaign is a call to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy efforts, and share knowledge and innovations.


History of the Campaign

Thirty-one years ago, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign was launched by the Women’s Global Leadership Institute. This campaign began on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ran until Human Rights Day on December 10th.  Each year since 1991, organizations and individuals around the globe have mobilized to keep this campaign going in an effort to increase awareness and make the world a more just and safer place for all. Progress has been made in some areas, but much remains to be done, and as we have seen in recent years, gains that have been made can be eroded and hard won rights can be lost if vigilance is not maintained.


What is gender-based violence?

It can take both physical and emotional forms, such as sexual assault, rape, stalking/criminal harassment, hitting, pushing, name-calling, cyber bullying\ cyber blackmail, control and manipulation. Anybody can be abused, no matter their background, identity, or circumstance but women and girls are at a higher risk for gender-based violence than their male counterparts. Discrimination can add another level of risk, and statistics show that radicalized women, those with a disability, Indigenous women, homeless women, and trans and non-binary people experience an even greater risk.


The last two years have seen an increase in violent incidents against women and girls. Certainly one of the unfortunate outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic was an intensification of all forms of violence against girls and women. While watching the nightly newscast, we were hearing of murdered women much too often, and overfull women’s shelters were turning people away due to space restrictions. According to StatCan, “In 2021, police reported 114,132 victims of intimate partner violence (violence committed by current and former legally married spouses, common-law partners, dating partners and other intimate partners) aged 12 years and older (344 victims per 100,000 population). It also marked the seventh consecutive year of a gradual increase for this type of violence, according to the report, with the rate of intimate partner violence increasing by two per cent in 2021 more than 2020.” (https://globalnews.ca/news/9217215/canada-covid-family-violence-increase)


Let’s be clear, violence against women and girls is not just a woman’s issue, it is a societal issue. When women or girls are murdered, raped or assaulted, their families and all who know them are affected. Children who witness spousal abuse can be severely traumatized. Witnessing violence in the home can affect children’s development and ability to learn. It can also lead to emotional issues such as anxiety and phobias, as well as behavioural problems such as bullying and aggression. “Children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes.” (Eve Bender, Psychiatric News, 2004) and they are more likely to display harmful drinking patterns later in life. (World Health Organization, 2012).  It is a chilling fact that children who witness multiple instances (more than 10) of parental domestic violence before the age of 16 are twice as likely to attempt suicide. (E. Fuller-Tomson et al., Child: Care, Health and Development, 2016)


This year’s theme, UNITE! Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls, is a call to action. As a society we must take this issue seriously and dig deep to find solutions that will put an end to this ongoing problem. When everyone is on an equal footing, and all people, no matter their sexual orientation or gender, can live a life free from the threat of violence,  society as a whole will be richer. Violence against girls and women takes a huge toll. So many lives are cut short or irreversibly psychologically damaged—what a sad waste of human capital.


It won’t be an easy job to change the mindset of those who would keep certain people down in order to maintain power and control, but we must try. Nothing is impossible if enough people are willing to put in the work to move society forward. This is a call for solidarity. Too many have suffered devastating loss. Too many lives have been irreparably damaged. It’s time to imagine and work toward a world where everyone, free from the threat of violence, can thrive and live up to their full potential. Hand to hand and heart to heart, we need everyone, of all genders, to come together and be an advocate for change. It’s time to UNITE! Enough is Enough!


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