Some Women Can’t

You Can Just Walk Away, Some Women Can’t.

BWSS creates interactive TSA to simulate the experience of being trapped in an abusive relationship.

One of the most violent times in an abusive relationship is when the woman tries to leave. In fact, in intimate partner violence cases, more than 70 percent of injuries and murders happen after the woman leaves. Every year more than 30,000 women and children are affected by intimate partner violence in British Columbia, with one woman killed every week in Canada.

On November 2nd, 2018, BWSS built an interactive Transit Shelter Advertisement (TSA) that allowed the public to step into the shoes of a woman experiencing violence by their intimate partner. What appears at first glance to be a nondescript apartment door is actually a digital peephole into the frightening world of gender based violence. Reminding us that while we can walk away from the door, some women can’t.

The public one-day stunt is part of BWSS 2018 campaign launching the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. Each year BWSS creates various initiatives during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence to raise awareness of the issue and encourage the public to donate and take action to end violence against women and girls. Stay tuned for the full campaign launch November 25th, 2018.

The campaign, so far, has received outstanding media coverage and shares through social media, click the links below to discover more about the TSA

 

The Simi Sara Show -CKNW – Video installation works to show how it is difficult to ‘just walk away’ from domestic abuse

 

 

City TV News Interactive bus ad gives glimpse into abusive relationships

 

 

CBC News –Video installation captures ‘fear and sense of threat’ faced by domestic abuse victims

 

 

 

CBC Radio – On The Coast –BWSS set up a jarring installation at a bus shelter in North Vancouver to help people understand what it can be like for women experiencing domestic abuse.

 

 

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International Human Rights Day

International Human Rights Day

Resisting the Backlash Against Women’s Human Rights

by Ela Esra Gunad

December 10th is International Human Rights Day, a day to bring attention to the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that states each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights which belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. It was sixty-six years ago that this milestone document in the history of human rights, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), was adopted.

Where are we as a global community at today in terms of the rights of women?

Every day, all over the world, women and girls continue to face violence and abuse in their homes, schools, workplaces, online, and on the streets. Globally one in three women has experienced abuse or subjected to gender-based violence in their lives.  Here in Canada, every six days a woman is killed by her intimate partner. Women are facing this violence simply because they are women. There are currently 1,181 missing and murdered  Indigenous women and girls throughout Canada due to the historical and present day systemic and social oppressive forces.

Throughout history and still today, there has been an ongoing battle on women’s bodies during times of conflict and warIn Rwanda, between 100,000 and 250,000 women were raped during the three months of Rwandan Genocide in 1994. According to the UN agencies, more than 60,000 women were raped during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), more than 40,000 in Liberia (1989-2003), up to 60,000 in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998. And, the history repeats itself today from Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq to Syria. Even in the absence of conflict or war, being a woman in these regions is being on continual alert of being harmed or killed. It cannot be ignored that during waves of militarization threaten women’s lives all the more.  Women have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, physically abused, harassed, and tortured in ways you may not even want to imagine.

Living free from violence is a human right, yet millions of women and girls face this violence both in times of peace and in war, at the hands of the state, in the home, and in the community. A vast number of women experience forced migration and have to leave their homelands in order to escape gendered systemic violence including gender oppression, gender persecution, political persecution, femicide, war, economic violence, land theft, and the impacts of colonization and globalization. We know through our support and advocacy work at Battered Women’s Support Services, migrant women have always faced structural barriers and there are many inequalities that migrant women face within Canada’s economic, social, legal, and political systems. It is crucial to understand that human rights are linked to each other and these inequalities often deny the basic rights of migrant women and their families. Freedom of movement and residence within any country is a human right, yet migrant women’s lives continue to be threatened by unsafe alternatives that force them to flee their countries, and once they make it into Canada the immigration process makes them even more vulnerable to further violence by the state, by employers, and within their relationships.

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Violence is one of the most common causes of homelessness for women and children. Our work on homelessness and violence against women shows that women leave their homes because of physical and/or sexual violence. On any given day in Canada, over 8,200 women and children are living in emergency shelters and transition houses to escape violent partners. Every woman and her children are entitled to safe, affordable, and adequate housing, yet many women face homelessness and/or further violence as a result of that. BWSS works very hard to get women into social housing and we know the demand supersedes the available resources.  One women’s shelter reported turning away eight to ten women per day at both of the shelters it operates. At BWSS we know many women with children will do almost anything to avoid sleeping on the streets out of fear of losing their children. With no place to go and not wanting to lose their children, many women stay in the abusive relationship.

This reality will not change until we each own our role in ending violence and do what is in our power to advocate and act ( activism ) to end gender-based violence. Women around the globe are rising against the pandemic of gender based violence, standing in their power, mobilizing and organizing to end all forms of violence against women and girls. From Indigenous women warriors’ who took to social media with #IAmNotNext campaign to women survivors who are standing in their power and coming forward with #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft, and #WhyIChooseNowtoTellMyStory hashtags; from women of the Arab Spring who carried their voices far and wide on the winds of revolution to women in Nigeria who started #BringBackOurGirls campaign to demand the return of hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian girls.

As it has been said, ending violence against women and girls remains one of the most crucial social issue to be obtained, since it weakens all other efforts towards a future just society. To come to grips with today’s most prevalent human rights violations in world, we have to work together towards a world in which women are safe and free everywhere from their very own intimate environments to the wider world at all times.

In the past 35 years, BWSS has been working on this frontline to end violence against women and making a positive change in the lives of girls, women, families, and communities.

On this International Human Rights Day, we ask you to take an effective action to stop violence against women. We need you to create a future free from violence for all.

Use your power today to end violence against women by:

 

Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:

International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women

Women’s Leadership for One Future Without Violence

The Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes

16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment 

Decolonizing and Healing Through Ceremonies

The Power of Support Groups at BWSS

Volunteering on BWSS Crisis and Intake Line

Wildflower Women of Turtle Island Drum Group

A Space for Every Woman to Grow

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?

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Wildflower Women of Turtle Island Drum Group

by Kay Carlson

When you sit or lie very still you feel it, the life-giving beating of your heart. The beating of First Nation hand drums, made from hides of animals that also had beating hearts, merge with the heartbeats of the circle of First Nations women who come together every week to drum and sing as our ancestors have done for thousands of years. We are the Wildflower Drum Group of the Women of Turtle Island a program of Battered Women’s Support Services Indigenous Women’s Program.

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The drumming and singing as a community of women always leaves us feeling better, no matter what problems we arrived with. How can such a simple act be so healing? Our Grandmothers knew that drumming and singing together is excellent medicine. They did not know the science why this is so, but they experienced the healing benefits. Every generation taught the next generation the songs and the importance of the circle of women as a community.

Today’s modern technology has shed light onto the many reasons the ancient ceremony of drumming circles is beneficial to health. In the growing field of energy medicine, it is well known that the Universe is created through patterns of frequency. Science is now documenting what traditional healers have known for centuries. Everything that exists in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms does so on a vibratory basis. Vibrations are essential to life, and the frequency of vibrations of the molecules in a human form affects the health of the person. When we sing, the vibrations within us are improved. And healing vibrations from the drums reverberate through us, improving our sense of wellbeing. We regain our strength and sing loud and proud. Our voices join together as a vital unifying force.

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The Wildflower Drum Group forms a caring community, concerned for the welfare of every woman in the circle. Our immune systems benefit when we laugh together, as shown in recent research. And when one in the group is in physical or emotional pain, we reach out to comfort her and let her know she is not alone.

The ancient practice of drumming and singing together is needed more than ever in our isolated consumeristic western lifestyle. Our children need to learn the songs and be given opportunities to form drumming circles for their good health. So let us take up our drums and sing together from our hearts. A circle of loving, healing hearts.

 

Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:

International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women

Women’s Leadership for One Future Without Violence

The Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes

16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment 

Decolonizing and Healing Through Ceremonies

The Power of Support Groups at BWSS

 

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?

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16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment

by Daniela Escolar and Emma Ellison, Support Group Facilitators

 “Each step helped me look at my past life and understand what do I needed to do for my recovery.  People’s stories about me don’t fit anymore my internal story anymore.”

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This Fall 2014 BWSS began a new session of our 16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment support group. Based on the 16-step model developed by Charlotte Kasl, this group offers a self-affirming, wholistic, and empowering approach to support women on their journeys of self-discovery, personal growth, and working through the impact of violence.

This group is designed to support women in finding more safety and power in their lives, expand their definition of self beyond the stigmatized definitions they may be carrying, understand internalized oppression, validate positive survival intentions underlying addictive behaviours, and explore preferred ways to meet these needs.

“I received compassion for my struggles. Gained more insight and self-awareness about why I think and act the way I do so I’m less confused and ashamed of my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors”

Women participating in the group shared that they hoped to find a space for open-minded and open-hearted conversations, develop their skills for coping with the impacts of trauma, and develop tools for managing behaviors that are no longer helpful.  Women also hoped to develop new tools to cope with feelings of pain, fear, stress, and oppression and increase their confidence, self-love, and personal power.

“It was a relief to be listened to without judgment and not being ‘rescued’.”

“I felt free to be vulnerable, becoming more and more comfortable with being myself, and being at the place where I’m at in this moment in my life.”

Every group begins with each participant sharing something new or positive that she did over the past week.  In celebrating these often unacknowledged acts of personal power in their daily lives, women affirm each other’s and their own strength and creativity.  Each week, participants discuss one step and explore how it relates to their lives and how it fits with their own sense of internal wisdom. Together, the participants and facilitators foster a flexible, creative, and open space for women to think for themselves and find their own path to healing and empowerment.

“The most important thing for me was that I’m allowed to affirm that I (we) will have the power to take charge of my (our) life (lives) and stop being dependent on other people for my (our) self-esteem and security.”

The 16 Step approach views women in their wholeness – mind, body, spirit, and within a social context – and holds each woman’s inner voice as the ultimate source of wisdom.  We start from the perspective that each woman is the expert in her own life, with innate knowledge, creativity, and skills to support her healing and guide her journey.

“I feel lighter, more aware of myself and hopeful in my journey.”

For many women, this is new and refreshing approach to healing from abuse and working through addictions.  Their skills for surviving trauma under oppressive and harmful conditions have often been overlooked, devalued, shamed, and stigmatized by mental health systems, treatment programs, society, and religion.  The 16 Step model offers a strength-based approach for women to understand themselves, their experiences, and their skills for navigating the world around them, which challenges dominant stories of guilt, personal blame, and condemnation.  Recognizing the amazing creativity and abilities that women have used in order to survive horrendous trauma brings a whole new perspective to stigmatized addictive behaviours such as substance use.

“I can put shame and guilt down and walk away from it.”

Women have shared that attending this group impacted them positively. The group helped them to validate and learn to love themselves; it normalized their experience; helped them to leave behind guilt and shame, understanding that they have done the very best that they knew in order to survive; process grief; have more compassion and understanding for themselves; reconnect with their bodies and with their chosen spirituality; and start healing broken relationships and feel hope.

For more information and/or to join 16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment support group, please call 604.687.1867 or email daniela@bwss.org.

BWSS 16 Steps POSTER JAN14-2014

Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:

International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women

Women’s Leadership for One Future Without Violence

The Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes

Intrinsic to women’s empowerment, support groups at BWSS are made possible with the financial contributions from people like you.

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International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Women from November 25, 2014 , continues through December 6th to on December 10th. Our ED Angela Marie MacDougall joined Sonia Sunger on Global TV to talk about the International Day to End Violence Against Women.

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Download and listen the postcast here. The following is a rush transcription of the interview:

Sonia Sunger: We are going to be turning to other news now. We have a guest here to talk about the International Day to end Violence against Women, Angela Marie MacDougall. You’ve actually just been listening to this press conference that has been going on, and obviously we talked to you about, today obviously is a very big day for the elimination of violence against women. First, I want to get your thoughts on that press conference that just happened. I know you know it’s an emotional day obviously for a lot of people and you have been taken aback by some of the comments that were made

Angela Marie MacDougall: Yes, thank you for the opportunity to join you this morning. I think, I found the press conference riveting and pointed. You know, I think that the lawyers and certainly reverend Al Sharpton did an extraordinary job through their comments to speak to the ways in which these proceedings that happened in Ferguson did not follow proper procedure. They asked very important questions about how these proceedings was undertaken and indicted the proceedings in terms of how it was done. And I think anyone who has been watching this and paying attention to the United States and the ways in which African American people in the United States historically from the very beginning of the creation of the US as a country in terms of stealing Africans from Africa in order to do slave labour until the present day. We have seen these kinds of things go on for generations, and so this is an example of what has happened historically and it’s happening again. And I think the that was very pointed for me was hearing Al Sharpton say that “Our hearts are broken, but our backs are not broken” and I think that’s the message I am taking away is that this work continues to address systemic racism and discrimination. And we have to understand that African American boys and men and girls and women are murdered every 28 hours by a police or a police type individual. This is astonishing and we have to in order to really understand the level of threat that people are facing.

SS: Are you surprised? I guess you are not obviously surprised by the reaction that we have seen in the US I mean that this has sparked a whole new civil rights movement and Al Sharpton is saying they are going to hold an emergency meeting in Washington coming next week, saying they are going to form a plan for ongoing demonstration and saying this is far form over and it’s really just the beginning.

AMM: If there is anything to take from this it is that people have become galvanized behind from the death of Michael Brown. And since Michael Brown there have been several young men and women that have been murdered, shot unarmed by law enforcement officers in the US since then several. And so, people are fed up. And this is understandable and people are really mobilizing around these and things have to change. One of the problems we bump up against is whether the system is actually broken or if it is working exactly as its intended, and it’s a tricky question that has yet to be answered truly.

SS: Exactly and that’s the question that they were raising today and that’s about the process itself was this process they used, the problem itself, and you heard the reverend and the lawyer saying that in this case, it was prosecutor only, and there was no cross examination, there was no ability to take a second look at the evidence that was presented, so I mean I think that’s where the anger and resentment is coming from. Was this process completely fair?

AMM: That’s it. Those are the questions and they are good questions for those of us who went there and weren’t able to be a part of that proceeding to see how it went down. These are important critical questions that have to be asked. And you know the question is really is how will that system be held accountable. I  know that they want to  push for legislation that has a law enforcement wearing body cameras and hope that would bring some transparency because and not being able to trust the proceedings that are in place. I think also and have the government step in. What historically has happened within the United States where local communities have a long history of systemic racism and police violence that people can’t trust, that local communities can address these very serious issues, and so seeking outside people such as the federal government to participate. And that’s a really good question about why the federal government was not involved in this?  I think that the issue is accountability at the end of the day here and transparency, and what’s been raised here is very serious as there has not been a level accountability, or transparency.

SS: And I think that will be the next step to see how the federal government in the US handles this whether they do step in and the next steps there. I wanna talk to you also about today being the day of the International Day to End Violence against Women and this day falls with, you know, two recent cases of violence in Surrey’s South Asian community in the past few months including one this weekend where a woman in her 60s was found dead and her husband is being charged with second degree murder.

AMM: Well Sonia…Violence against women is one of the most pressing social issues of our time. Woman are being murdered every day by their male partners all across the lands. And you know, we’ve seen horrific murders of women in Surrey. We continue to seek the amount of public awareness, but we really need a behavior change at this point, we need to see real change that’s going to address levels of unsafety, violence, and oppression in women are experience in their homes. In their homes understand that this is happening in women homes where it’s supposed to be safe.

SS: I understand that the BWSS is celebrating an important milestone. I don’t know if you want to say celebrating, but marking looking at the past 35 years of progress that the organization has made. So when you think of that, 35 years of history how far have you come?

AMM: Well so, murders of women have not stopped. So we need to start right there. When Battered Women’s Support Services was created in 1979, we had a situation where we could not talk about violence against women it was simply deemed to not exist. If we think about 1882 when Margaret Mitchell who was an MP for Vancouver East spoke at the House of Commons and she spoke about the prevalence of which she called then wife battering and the male MPS in the House of Commons laughed at her. So that was the context of when BWSS started and our very name Battered Women’s Support Services and that name was selected to make visible that which was rendered invisible. And so, when we fast forward to present day we have a situation now to where things have shifted, we have way more public awareness media reports are much better in terms of accuracy and there is a significant backlash whenever victims are blamed. We really appreciate the role of social medial and how communities and communities of women and others are mobilizing around social media in order to bring a level of awareness and to push back around victim blaming. So those are some things that have happened. One of the things I think is really important to note is that no more than ever woman are leaving abusive relationships. More than my mothers time, more than my grandmothers time. And this is really important torn recognize that woman are leaving and seeing that there are options other than living with violence.

SS: Yeah, and the other part of this is also sexual violence and allegations of that you know just in the past few weeks we’ve seen the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, and cases like that making a lot of people think about that sort of violence against women and a lot of people coming out and more people are willing to speak about it. Do you think that is elevating the conversation?

AMM: Yes most definitely, it is positioning women’s voice at the center of this conversation, women had have experience sexual violence at the center. And that’s where we need to be, really hearing women, hearing women share their stores of sexual violence, talking about ways in which the power dynamics played out that contributed, talk about the way in which power dynamic contributed to the silencing and to the disbelief when women went public, weather that was from co-workers or law enforcement, friend and family this is extraordinarily important because it is the victim blaming and the silencing, and the undermining of women’s voices over the years that has allowed those who would do sexual violence and domestic violence against women to continue and that’s shifting and this is a critical important part of this shift within our culture.

SS: Alright well let’s hope this shift and conversation continues. Angela Marie MacDougall from Battered Women’s Support Services joining us today.

AAM: Thank you, Sonia.

 

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?

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My Volunteering Experience at My Sister’s Closet

Violence Against Women does not only impact the woman. It impacts all who surround her. If she is a mother, violence against her will affect her child(ren) and her relationship with them. In Canada there are estimated 3,000 women with their 2,900 children who flee their homes from violence and stay at transition houses each year.

At BWSS, we recognize that women are often at the centre of the family, the community. What is done to her will ripple out to who she is connected to. Thus, in our work with women who are mothers, we explore the impact of violence on her, her children, and on her relationship as a parent. This exploration often provides insight, information, resources, and tools that empower who she is as a woman, as a mother. The transformation from disempowerment to empowerment gets modelled and seeps into her connection and parenting with her child(ren), feeding their sense of self and ways of being, feeling, and acting.

We are grateful for Mia’s sharing because it not only illustrates how by empowering women we strengthen our community. It also shows us that experiencing and/or witnessing violence does not mean “forever damaged”, a view held by some. Violence against women is a horrid experience done by another often a loved one that negatively impacts the whole being, true. However, it does not have to define and dictate who and how you are, there are ways to overcome the impact and reclaim the power to be your own person and to be the one in control of your life. Mia’s story shows us just that. Thank you Mia.

My Volunteering Experience at My Sister’s Closet

by Mia K., My Sister’s Closet Volunteer

mia_volunteeringExpMSC_1My memories of My Sister’s Closet and BWSS reach back into my childhood. As a kid growing up with a single mom, we always found great prices at My Sister’s Closet. I was so happy to get books and toys that we would not have been able to afford brand new. I distinctly remember when my mom went to a BWSS parenting workshop and I played and ate noodles while I waited for her. After that workshop, my mom changed the way we did things at home and thanks to that parenting workshop, I grew up with the mentality that if we live together we must help each other out and not just force one person to do all the work. I also began to develop independent life skills that are preparing me for life as an adult.

My mom has a sheet of paper that she got from BWSS that says “model of a healthy relationship”. She taped it to our storage room wall and I remember as a child reading it curiously, not knowing where it came from, but still storing what I read in my mind. Every time I walked into the storage room I saw that paper, and eventually it became ingrained in me. Today, having realized how I and those around me deserve to be treated, I make sure all my relationships abide by that model.

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I started volunteering at My Sister’s Closet this past April 2013. I decided to come to My Sister’s Closet because I knew what it stands for and supports, having shopped there before, and wanted to give back to community the best way I could. It has been wonderful experience. I do not only work with great clothes, but also work with many wonderful people with different skills and personalities. In the past, I had trouble fitting in, particularly in high school, but My Sister’s Closet feels just like a community. Everyone has something different to bring to the table; everyone has a different way to solve a problem. The volunteers at My Sister’s Closet are a diverse group and it is a joy every time I meet a different volunteer.

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 At My Sister’s Closet I learn to be accommodating because everyone has a different opinion. I develop my skills as a team player rather than an individual worker as I would usually do. We each play our strengths and cover for each other’s weaknesses and this is what makes a team work well. Coming to volunteer at the store feels like a breath of fresh air amidst the constant flood of schoolwork. I always feel like I am doing something useful when I am able to come in and leave my frustrations behind to be surrounded by everyone’s good energy, whether that be on shift, just coming into shop, or at a volunteer network meeting. Thanks to My Sister’s Closet, I feel such emotional fulfillment that material things could not give me; the fact that.

Learn more about My Sister’s Closet, social enterprise of BWSS here.

My Sister's Closet on Instagram

 

Last year, Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.

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