Wow! Can you believe how early it is getting dark out now? I used to enjoy walking in the early evening before the sun set to unwind from a busy day and soak in all the beauty. There is constantly research coming out about the benefits of being in nature for our social, emotional, physical and mental health and I love to “walk my talk” (pun intended). I’ve usually felt safe as I wandered along our neighbourhood streets or enjoyed the sounds of the creek along a nearby path. But the other night, I didn’t feel safe to walk to pick up my son from his friend’s house in the pitch black even though my body was craving the fresh air and exercise. As I decided against walking alone in the dark as a woman, I felt sad and angry. Despite how far we have come to address violence against women and the reality that we are actually most at risk of abuse from someone we know, most women still don’t feel safe. We take many safety precautions that limit our lives and our freedom. We’ve internalized these messages. It is ingrained in us at an early age and we see the criticism and blaming against those women who dare to engage in what others consider “high risk behaviour” such as walking alone at night or traveling on their own. I saw a social media post recently speaking out against the horrible verbal attacks and threats being uttered against women online.
It is November, Woman Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month here in Ontario and many believe a sad time in history for women and other minorities. As our Executive Director recently wrote in a social media post shortly after the American election; “Yesterday on the day after the US election, I was at a meeting of 40 individuals whose agencies deal with Violence Against Women. Many of them have spent most of their professional lives in this work. Discussion was very subdued and heavy-hearted. A man who epitomizes everything we work against was elected President. We have a lot of work to do! And our vision is clear – an end to violence and abuse.”
Despite this somber reality, combined with the inherent struggles of a social benefit organization, we are more committed than ever. For decades, we have worked tirelessly with survivors and perpetrators to prevent and treat the impacts of abuse. We are committed to breaking down misconceptions that survivors are to blame for abuse in any form. We offer hope and healing through individual and group support. We invite our mandated clients to take responsibility and challenge sexist or controlling beliefs. We are acutely aware of how many of our clients have witnessed or experienced abuse growing up. Hurting people hurt. We are working to break the cycle of violence and equip men and women with healthy coping skills and beliefs that promote equality and respect.
Work with us to end abuse. Show our communities that you want to make a difference and break the cycle of violence. We face gaps in service, a full waiting room at our weekly walk-in and limited funding for male group members who desperately need trauma support to be better parents and partners. Volunteer with us and get a glimpse of the big work that happens or consider making a donation. Every little bit can go a long way to creating a safer community for all of us.
Nicole, November 2016