If there was one message to be conveyed at the stop violence against women vigil on Tuesday, it was stand up and be heard.
“Victims aren’t responsible for having violence perpetrated against them. Violence is not accidental,” said Anders Hoenisch, Okanagan College Students’ Union council member. “Violence is an intentional act for power and control. There is no medical pathology explanation, there is no romantic view that can explain violence. Violence is an intentional action, and responsibility has to be properly assigned to people who commit violence.”
Leave your mark was what the Okanagan College Students’ Union encouraged the public to do by leaving a note on artwork displayed at the Penticton campus for the Dec. 6 national day of remembrance and action that was created in memory of the 14 women who were killed in 1989 by a Montreal man deliberately targeting women on a busy college campus.
“Do not stay silent,” said legal advocate for the Penticton and Area Women’s Centre David Desautels, during the panel discussion held Tuesday evening. “We know we have a responsibility when we think a child is at risk, but we also have a responsibility to each other. I know it is tough sometimes when you see somebody that is much stronger than you beating up on someone else … we all have it within ourselves to do something when we think it is not right.”
According to PAWC, over 50 per cent of Canadian women will experience an incident of violence at some point in their lives, and the majority before they turn 25 years old. In the summer, Penticton saw an alarming number of incidents where women suffered from acts of violence.
In July, a Penticton mother was the victim of a brutal assault in a second-hand store. In the following weeks and months RCMP arrested a man on charges of a parent/guardian procuring a child under the age of 18 for prohibited sexual activity and living on the avails of prostitution, arrested a convicted sex offender on charges of sexual assault and forcible confinement and then arrested another man for murder of his common-law spouse. All of these incidents are being dealt with in the judicial system.
Desautels outlined the three stressors of violence as family, money and families with no money. Panelist Anna Terbasket from restorative justice agreed, stating the roost cause of violence against women is poverty.
“People who live in poverty on a day-to-day basis over an extended period of time begin to feel hopeless to a point where they start lashing out,” said Terbasket, adding addictions and mental health as other reasons.
Terbasket said for Aboriginal women the risk is higher and that these women will experience 3.5 times the amount of violence and eight times the violence that results in spousal homicide.
“As an Aboriginal woman that is my reality,” she said.
PAWC said violence against women costs over $4 billion per year including direct medical costs along with those of criminal justice, social services and lost productivity. Panelist John Mott, a professor teaching the criminal and social justice diploma program at the Okanagan College Penticton campus, encouraged the public to speak out on cuts to programs and to have funding restored to legal aid. Mott said B.C.’s legal aid system went from being the envy of other provinces to being considered the worst.
“Our whole system is having an issue … but it is what the chief judge of the Supreme Court said: it is a system that is becoming very close to going over the cliff. It is going to impact many people and it will have a very significant effect on women and on children and on poor people,” said Mott.
Those looking for support, encouragement or information on where to turn for help can contact the Penticton and Area Women’s Centre at 250-493-6822.