December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women


Being tasked to write this article presented me with a challenge. I wasn’t sure of the best way to approach the topic of violence against women in order to deliver a piece that was insightful to the reader and meaningful to me. In my brainstorming sessions, I kept thinking of the 14 women who were killed on December 6th, 1989 simply for the fact that they were women. Images and thoughts from that horrific day resonated so strongly within me and kept repeating like a song on a continuous loop.

A chance conversation with one of my closest and dearest friends provided me with a “eureka” moment that gave me focus and reminded me of the enormity and severity of violence against women and how some of our sisters are continually living this reality – this perpetual motion. When you think about it, everyone knows someone or about someone who has been the victim of violence. As I sat there listening and bearing witness to the experience of a domestic abuse survivor, I was reminded about that continuous loop. And I was reminded that this wasn’t the first time I’d been privy to such tales of violence and triumph. The importance of being there to listen and lend support is integral to the victim’s support network.

(Thank you, Stacy, for bringing into focus the direction I needed as inspiration for this article.)

According to Status of Women in Canada, these are the facts:

FACT: Women are 11 times more likely than men to be victims of sexual offences
FACT: Women are 4 times more likely than men to experience intimate partner violence
FACT: Women with disabilities are at 4 times greater risk of experiencing sexual assault
FACT: The RCMP reports that nearly 1,200 Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in Canada
FACT: Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 experience the highest rates of violence
FACT: Since 1980, the number of non-Aboriginal female victims of homicide has been declining while the number of Aboriginal female victims has remained relatively constant
FACT: 8 out of 10 victims of intimate partner violence are women
FACT: Data suggests that one quarter of female students in college or university have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault; 90% of these students knew their attacker
FACT: Women are 3 times more likely than men to experience criminal harassment
FACT: Aboriginal women are 3 times more likely to report experiencing violence than non-Aboriginal women
FACT: Aboriginal women are over-represented among Canada’s murdered women; they make up 4% of the female population but represent 16% of all murdered women
FACT: Sexual offences are 8 times more likely to be committed against girls ages 12-17 than male youth
FACT: 90% of Sexual assaults against women by a non-spousal accused are never reported to police
FACT: Women know their sexual attacker in three quarters of incidents

The facts here speak for themselves – women are targets simply because of their gender. So on this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada I strongly urge you to acknowledge without pride or prejudice, as an individual and a society, that gender-based violence is not just a women’s issue, it’s an everybody issue. Ignoring and sweeping it under the carpet is no longer an option or an alternative.

Instead, we must address the issue; face the FACTs head-on.

Together, we can root out this malignancy that has us hobbled and look towards engendering a society where respect for women is the new norm rather than the exception. It is left to us to facilitate spaces where victims feel free to express their experiences and lend support where we must to enable the healing of all those who have been affected by gender-based acts of violence.
In closing, I would like to share this poem with you…


VICTIMS, each and every one of us
In one way or another – Victim
The unknowingly conscious recipient of some or other crime against
humanity – Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us
Properly thrashed and subjected, to some or another of society’s ills
Dissected and Rejected, ready to occupy another space on humanity’s
landfill – Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us
Pillaged and Plundered, left falling, failing, floundering for – just give me
just one more chance, come on give me just one more chance, ready for
another option outside of that of – Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us
Desperate for movement, anywhere else but between a rock and its hardest
Rendered incapable, unable to gasp for breath as life holds us each
immobilized, comatose and in a state of suspended animation – Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us

Hayley Millington is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Women.