SWOVA recently had a visit from an engaging and dynamic woman from Australia named Ellen Poyner. Ellen works to create and deliver healthy relationships programs in Southern Australia and is touring North America to investigate programs related to her work. When she asked me what I was most proud of in SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program, the first thing that came to mind is team work. We have always worked in teams. Many people have worked with us for short periods or long periods providing dynamic team collaborations. As we all know there is lots of work to be done to prevent gender-based violence and we are stronger when we feel supported and are able to spark off each other.
It’s easy to get caught up in a shopping frenzy with the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Today, however, is an opportunity to change trajectory. It’s Giving Tuesday, a day when Canadians get the chance to give back by donating their time or money to a non-profit they support to make the world a better place.
Giving Tuesday is also a day when the Canadian Women’s Foundation gets to give back to our donors across the country.
Our supporters believe deeply that improving the lives of women and girls is the smartest way to build a better life for all of us. It’s the ripple effect: when we invest in women and girls, families become safer, communities become stronger, and Canada becomes more prosperous.
One of the most common misconceptions about domestic violence is that it occurs within a relationship, and ends when the relationship does. Leaving a relationship does not stop the abuse. They are separate issues only connected by the individuals involved.
Recently in the Edmonton area there have been two high profile domestic murders that shine light on the enduring nature of domestic abuse. Both women were murdered long after the relationships had ended. The first, Nadine Skow, had broken off the relationship more than a year prior to her ex-partner breaking into her home and stabbing her 17 times. She had moved across the province to hide from him. She was preparing to move again. The second, Colleen Sillito, had sought police protection and had a Court Order barring him from contacting her; he had already violated the Order at least once. She was also in a new relationship. But the abuse did not end. In both cases, the women had taken significant steps toward protecting themselves.
She sat next to me, staring down at her hands holding the last crumpled tissue from the pack I brought along for our first of several days in court. Of all the items I carried in my volunteer pack, tissues always seemed to get the most use. I could barely stand to look into her pain-filled eyes as she turned to me and whispered, “Please tell me this will be worth it.”
In 2011, Canada was ranked 9 among 12 North American and European countries in an analysis of access to justice. Increasingly, the gap between who qualifies for legal aid and who can afford legal advice and representation widens. And like with most social issues, women are impacted in more profound and complex ways. Double, triple or even quadruple that impact for those who sit at the intersectionality of gender, race, culture, socioeconomic or immigration status. The result is an astounding number of women self-representing in civil or family court matters, or feeling completely helpless as the victim in the midst of criminal court proceedings.