International Human Rights Day

This blog is based on a previous post written 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, on average, every week a woman is killed by her intimate partner. Women are facing this violence simply because they are women. There are thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls throughout Canada due to the historical and present day systemic and social oppressive forces. Indigenous women, trans, and two spirit people are particularly vulnerable to violence because of historical and ongoing systemic sexism, racism, and trans/misogyny. Canada needs to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to support Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2*S in our communities.

Hate crimes against trans people are also disproportionately and tragically high, and the majority of this violence victimizes trans women. In fact, over half of all anti-LGBTQ2S homicides were perpetrated against transgender women. It’s important to note that nearly three-quarters of those homicides targeted people of colour. BWSS is committed to facing this reality and providing relevant services and support transgender, two-spirit, and non-binary survivors of violence.

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.

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 3,400 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.

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.

For 40 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. Because Safety Changes Everything.

Get Help Today

If you are in an abusive relationship please call 1-855-687-1868 or find a resource in your community below.


Give the gift of safety and volunteer with Battered Women’s Support Services.

Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence 2018 campaign:

Day 1 of 16 Days of Activism of Gender Violence – Lions MMA self-defense seminar fundraiser

Day 2 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender Violece Meeting with John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia and Parliamentary Secretary Mitzi Dean to consult on what the provincial government can do to end gender violence. 

Day 3 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender Violence – BWSS Warrior Woman Rosa Elena Arteaga to speak today at the B.C. Federation of Labour Women’s Rights Forum. 

Day 4 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based violence and this is how we take action on economic abuse.

Day 5 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence and we’re so proud of our collaboration with Luminesque Dance.

Day 6 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence started with session 11 of our Violence Prevention Intervention Training with Claudia, Theresa and Brooklyn.

Day 7 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence and we commemorate World AIDS Day 2018 through highlighting Body Mapping Telling Our Stories Through Art

Day 9 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence and please see our video “Home Sweet Home” 

Day 10 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence and we are asking you to weigh in on the discussion about the Christmas song “Baby it’s Cold Outside”

Day 11 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence and Statistics Canada says that sexual assault reports are up following #MeToo.

Day 12 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence and we commemorate December 6th the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women

Day 13 of 16 Days of Activism and it’s the final day of our Violence Prevention and Intervention Training!

Day 14 of 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence and today we hosted “Healthy Boundaries = Happy Me”

Day 16 of 16 Days of Activism of Gender Violence recognizing Human Rights Day

Do you remember where you were on December 6th 1989?

Today, we commemorate December 6th the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women following the murder of 14 female engineering students at l’École Polytechnique de Montreal in 1989.

BWSS commemorates the many ways in which women experience gender-based violence — from Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, transgender women, gender non-binary folks and the broad spectrum of women girls across Canada.

This day continues to be a poignant reminder of the ongoing work that needs to be done to end gender based violence. Today is as important as it was in 1989 with the murders of the 14 women in Montreal. It reminds us how endemic and how much of an epidemic that violence against women is in Canada. Unlike other criminal activity in Canada, for the last 40 years reports of violence against women and girls has increased.

This week, Statistics Canada released their 2017 profile on police-reported rates of abuse for seniors, children, youth and intimate partners. Not surprisingly, they have found that gender- based violence has increased since 2016 based on what we see daily on the front line and through social movements like #MeToo that have had a direct effect on increased reporting to police and victim based services like BWSS.

In 2017, close to one-third of all police-reported victims in Canada were victims of intimate partner violence. As has been the case in previous years, females were over-represented, accounting for almost 8 in 10 victims. In fact, violence committed by an intimate partner (45%) was the most common type of violence experienced by female victims of violent crime in 2017. It is important to note that these are statistics based on police reports and that the majority of women and girls do not report to the police, they often report to family, friends and community based organizations, like BWSS, instead.

66 women were murdered by their intimate partner in Canada in 2017. Intimate partner violence and homicide are an ongoing violation of human rights. Not only does it deprive women of their lives but also has detrimental effects on their children.

The rate of violence against seniors also increase by four per cent between 2016 and 2017. There were 11,380 seniors aged 65 and older who were victims of police-reported violence in 2017. Slightly more than half of the seniors abused by family were women, with 32 per cent who were victimized by their husbands.

Annually, approximately 1,400 senior women reach out to BWSS looking for assistance because of an abusive situation within a current relationship with a husband and/or with an adult child and/or with a caregiver.

Police-reported family violence against children and youth higher in 2017 than 2016 with rates of violence were higher for female victims in every metropolitan area in Canada. Over 4,500 girls and young women experienced sexual violence in 2017. Given that approximately 10% of assaults are reported, the actual number is much higher.

Canada needs to do more in support of women and girls who experience violence. We must recognize that women are not experiencing violence by accident or because of a natural vulnerability –rather, violence against women is the result of structural, deep-rooted discrimination and cultural norms. As individuals, community and society we must commit to ending gender based violence in Canada.

While there is definitely a need for societal attitudes to shift in order to overcome the problematic attitudes and beliefs that leads to male violence against women, trans women and gender non-binary folks. Various policies and practices need to change in Canada in support of violence prevention and survivors.

Police-reported sexual assaults increase in Canada after #MeToo

This report was originally posted on the Stats Canada website, read the full report here.

In 2017, sexual violence and sexual misconduct were the centre of significant public discussion. A number of high-profile cases involving prominent figures and celebrities accused of sexual assault or misconduct received widespread media attention, and many victims’ accounts of sexual abuse and harassment were shared. In response, several social media campaigns were launched, with #MeToo being one of the most prominent, going viral in October of 2017. While most of these social media campaigns and cases originated from the United States, they arguably had an impact on the discussion of sexual violence internationally and in Canada.

The present Juristat article expands on previous analytical reports and focuses on the shifts in police-reported sexual assaults before and after #MeToo, as well as changes in victim characteristics among those who reported to police. It is important to recall that Canada’s most recent victimization survey (2014) showed that only a minority (1 in 20)Note of sexual assaults are reported to police (Conroy and Cotter 2017), and therefore police-reported sexual assault data do not reflect the true extent of sexual assault and sexual violence in Canada. In addition, because so few sexual assaults are reported to police in the first place, changes in reporting behaviour – such as new reports prompted by #MeToo – are likely to have notable impacts on police-reported data. Consequently, increases in police-reported sexual assaults during this time period may not necessarily reflect increases in the prevalence of sexual assault itself, but rather increases in reporting to police as well as changes in police practices. Nonetheless, these statistics are important in understanding the nature of sexual assaults that are reported to police in Canada, as well as informing criminal justice system planning and workload allocation given the potential increase in resources required at various levels (e.g., policing, courts, and victim services).

Rate of police-reported sexual assaults highest for young women and girls between 12 and 24 years old

Overall, victims of sexual assault were disproportionately young women and girls. Over half (55%) of sexual assault victims in 2016 and 2017 were females under 25 years of age, a proportion which was similar before and after #MeToo.

Young girls aged 15 to 17 had the highest quarterly rates of sexual assault both before and after #MeToo (Chart 4). Girls aged 12 to 14 were victims of sexual assault at an average quarterly rate of 86.2 per 100,000 population before #MeToo, increasing by 48% to 127.9 after #MeToo. Quarterly rates for girls aged 15 to 17 similarly increased from 145.3 to 191.5 (+32%), as did rates for young women between 18 and 24 years old, from 76.4 to 92.6 (+21%). Despite continuing to have relatively low rates, rates for older male victims between 35 and 54 years old nearly doubled after #MeToo (from 1.3 to 2.4 per 100,000 population).

Increase in sexual assault reports at schools, bars, and restaurants after #MeToo

Both pre- and post-#MeToo, around three in five (62% and 61% respectively) sexual assaults reported to police took place on private property.Note Incidents which occurred at a school, college, or university represented a small proportion of all incidents reported to police in 2016 or 2017 (5%). Nonetheless, incidents in these locations saw considerable increases after #MeToo, with sexual assaults on school, college, or university property nearly doubling (+87%) compared with the average number reported per quarter before #MeToo (439 versus 235 incidents). Because school attendance is seasonal the post-#MeToo period of October to December 2017 was also compared to the last three months of 2016 to control for seasonality in the data. A 59% increase in number of reported sexual assaults was observed, still making it one of the top types of sexual assault that saw a marked increase in reports after #MeToo.

Coinciding with the largest increases being observed among 12- to 17-year-old victims, the bulk of sexual assault incidents on school property (93% pre-#MeToo and 95% after) took place on non-postsecondary school grounds, most often during supervised activity, rather than at a college or university.NoteSexual assaults at a bar or restaurant were 46% higher after #MeToo than in an average quarter before #MeToo, though they still represented a small proportion of all reported sexual assaults (3% post-#MeToo).

Recently, attention to sexual violence on college and university campuses has increased, with many institutional and student-led task forces raising concerns and responding to high-profile incidents (Our Turn 2017; University of Ottawa n.d.). In Ontario, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act mandates that all colleges and universities have a sexual violence policy that addresses sexual violence involving students and outlines the process for responding to incidents and complaints (Bill 132 2016). Many schools below the post-secondary level have also introduced prevention programs, and as was the case with #MeToo, increased levels of awareness surrounding sexual assault and sexual violence may have had an impact on reporting practices.

Healthy boundaries = Happy me!

Healthy Boundaries Workshop


Are my boundaries firm?
Do I know when I’m unsafe?
Are my relationships healthy?
Can I find calm within myself?
Are my needs getting met?


Establishing safety and creating healthy boundaries is a free workshop for self–identified women

Learn how to:
• Assess your personal relationships
• Establish safety in difficult relationships
• Self-advocate and get your needs met
• Identify areas in your life you may need to draw boundaries
• Defend and protect the boundaries you define

Workshop is on Saturday, December 8th from 10 am to 1 pm at My Sister’s Closet Commercial Drive Pop-Up Shop, 1151 Commercial Drive

Registration is FREE!

To sign up, please call:
604.687.1868 Or email:

Workshops Participants will be entered to win 1 of 3 gift cards to My Sisters Closet!

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.



cbc news twitter

News 1130 Facebook



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


Battered Women’s Support Services creates interactive TSA to simulate the experience of being trapped in an abusive relationship.

WHAT:  Battered Women’s Support Services has built an interactive Transit Shelter Advertisement that allows 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 domestic abuse.

The public one-day stunt is part of their 2018 campaign launching for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. The campaign hopes to raise awareness of BWSS services and encourage the public to donate and take action to end violence against women and girls. 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.

WHEN: November 2, 2018. Availability to film the event and interviews from 12-1pm.

WHERE: Transit shelter at Lonsdale Avenue and 27th Street East, North Vancouver V7N 3J1

WHO: Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services

DETAIL:  Media are invited to experience the interactive TSA. Interviews with Angela Marie MacDougall will follow.

ABOUT:  Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is a Canadian not-for-profit located in Vancouver that    provides education, advocacy and support services to assist all women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence.

Please confirm your attendance by contacting
Rona Amiri, Violence Prevention Coordinator, 778-558-7179