Understanding Online Coercive Control

Understanding Online Coercive Control in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence

Understanding Online Coercive Control in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence

Safety Resource Blog Week Five

 

Nowadays, many survivors’ journeys to seeking safety from an abusive relationship start with technology.

Technology is a powerful ally. Whether it’s for research, accessing resources, creating safety plans, finding support groups, or reaching out for help, the internet and technology stand as lifelines for many survivors.

However, technology also has a dark side, presenting risks for victims of violence. In the hands of abusers, this powerful ally can transform into a weapon capable of inflicting harm on their partners. This malicious use includes surveillance, tracking devices or software, threatening messages, restricting access to technology, manipulation of smart home tools, and a range of other insidious tactics.

In this digital era, the very tools that offer support to survivors also harbour potential threats, highlighting the complex balance in harnessing technology for empowerment while safeguarding against its malicious misuse.

 

What is Online Coercive Control?

Online coercive control refers to a form of abusive behaviour in which one person uses technology to control, manipulate, or threaten another person.

This behaviour can occur within any form of relationship, whether it’s with an intimate partner, within a family dynamic, or even among friends. It can be carried out using any technological devices, social media, and other online platforms to monitor, harass, and exert power and control over the victim. In the context of intimate partnerships, this type of abuse is often referred to as Technology-Based Intimate Partner Violence (TB-IPV).

It’s important to remember that online abuse takes on various forms, ranging from hurtful actions like spreading embarrassing or cruel content about someone, to impersonation, doxing, stalking, and electronic surveillance. Additionally, it includes the unauthorized use of someone’s photos and the issuance of violent threats.

The demonstration of online abuse is diverse and includes a spectrum of harmful behaviours that can deeply negatively impact victims. Learn more about online abuse, the tactics, and internet safety here.

Let’s continue to delve deeper into the complex web of online coercive control, exploring its manifestations, impact, and strategies for both awareness and protection.

 

Here are some ways that online coercive control appears in an intimate partner relationship:

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Surveillance and Monitoring:

Abusers use tracking devices, spyware, or monitoring software to invade the privacy of their victims, creating a constant atmosphere of surveillance.

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Threatening Messages:

Abusers use messaging platforms to deliver threat and intimidation.

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Restriction of Access:

Victims may find themselves cut off from technology, as abusers use control tactics to limit access to communication and information.

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Smart Home Tools:

The smart home technology provides another avenue for control, as abusers manipulate devices to survey and harass their partners within the confines of their own homes.

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Financial Control:

Abuse can extend to financial aspects, such as controlling the victim’s access to online banking, monitoring their spending, or using technology to restrict their financial independence.

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Revenge Porn:

Sharing intimate or explicit images without consent, commonly known as revenge porn, is another form of abuse aimed at humiliating and controlling the victim.

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Identity Theft:

Abusers may use digital methods to impersonate the victim, create fake accounts, or manipulate their online presence, leading to reputational damage and further control.

Did you know?

The Metro Vancouver transit cards, also known as Compass Cards, pose a risk to women in abusive relationships.

Registering a Compass Card allows for tracking, which can compromise the safety of women in abusive situations. Click here to learn more on how to keep yourself and loved ones safe from compass cards.

What’s the Impact on Survivors?

The outcome of online abuse goes far beyond the online world, affecting the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of victims.

This can lead to stress, anxiety, and a heightened risk of depression for those trapped in this form of abuse.

Beyond the immediate emotional toll, victims often deal with the loss of their self-esteem. The isolation from support networks further adds to the difficulties faced by survivors, creating an environment where seeking assistance becomes increasingly difficult.

 

Here are some ways to stay safe:

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Secure your devices: Change your passwords, Enable two-factor authenticator.

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Check your social media settings: Adjust your privacy settings, Limit the personal information you share and be mindful of accepting unfamiliar people.

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Educate yourself: Stay informed about common tactics, spyware apps and tracking devices.

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Seeking Professional Support: Consult with cybersecurity experts and speak to a professional to address any emotional impacts.

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Legal Protections: Familiarize yourself with laws and regulations related to online abuse in your jurisdiction.Top of Form

Did you know?

In Canada, a new bill is being introduced: Bill C-332, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (controlling or coercive conduct).

This bill is being brought forward by NDP MP Laurel Collins, who stated, “Criminalizing coercive control means giving victims and survivors additional tools to leave abusive situations.

We have a responsibility to give these victims more control, more autonomy, and more power to escape dangerous situations, hopefully, to prevent the all-too-common escalation to violence.”

Remember, staying safe from online coercive control involves a combination of technological vigilance, education, and seeking support.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact the Battered Women Support Services Crisis Line:

Call toll-free: 1-855-687-1868
Metro Vancouver: 604-687-1867

Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Recognizing Red Flags: Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Recognizing Red Flags: Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Safety Resource Blog Week Four

 

Last week’s resource, we discussed the differences between a toxic relationship and an abusive relationship.

So, in this resource, let’s dive into the everyday warning signs of abuse and gain some understanding of tackling problems before they escalate further and potentially cause more harm.

Have you ever stopped to assess the health of your relationship or suspected that someone close to you might be involved in an unhealthy situation?

 

Spotting the signs of an abusive relationship can indeed be challenging, but they serve as indicators of a potential abusive relationship.

It’s crucial for maintaining a healthy dynamic and fostering a positive environment in your relationship. The people closest to us hold significant influence over our joy and mental well-being, so it’s vital to be vigilant in looking for these signs.

 

Understanding Toxic and Abusive Relationships

On the journey to weaving those meaningful connections, we often encounter relationships that are labeled as “toxic.” This term is commonly used across various facets of our lives, whether it’s within platonic friendships, family dynamics, workplace environments, or intimate partnerships.

Toxic relationships encompass a multitude of negative behaviours, including constant criticism, communication breakdowns, and emotional manipulation, which collectively foster an unhealthy atmosphere.

Abusive relationships entail a more severe escalation, manifesting in various forms such as physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, control, and manipulation, ultimately creating a heightened sense of danger. However, both types of environments can be unsafe, hostile, and challenging to navigate.

It’s crucial to note that toxic relationships have the potential to escalate into abusive relationships. Recognizing the warning signs early on can help prevent further harm.

 

Identifying Red Flags

Understanding the signs of a toxic relationship may be the beginning to the journey of tackling the deeper issues at play. Realizing that an unhealthy connection might just escalate into abuse is an important awareness. Staying alert to those sly hints of trouble becomes key in navigating these intricate dynamics and finding your way to safety.

Now, let’s take a closer look on some behaviour’s worth keeping an eye out for.

Lack of Trust

  • Suspicion, jealousy, and unfounded accusations.
  • Difficulty believing or relying on the partner.
  • Erosion of trust leading to strained connections.

Constant Criticism

  • Regular belittling, insults, or demeaning comments.
  • Undermining self-esteem and self-worth.
  • A pervasive negative atmosphere in the relationship.

Controlling Behavior

  • Monitoring and restricting activities.
  • Isolation from friends and family.
  • Making decisions without consulting the partner.

Lack of Communication

  • Difficulty expressing feelings openly.
  • Unresolved issues due to poor communication.
  • Emotional distance and a sense of being misunderstood.

Emotional Manipulation

  • Guilt-tripping to control behavior.
  • Playing the victim to garner sympathy.
  • Emotional outbursts to manipulate outcomes.

Inability to Resolve Conflicts

  • Escalation of conflicts into heated arguments.
  • Unresolved issues leading to lingering tension.
  • A repeated cycle of conflict without resolution.

Gaslighting

  • Manipulative tactics to make the victim doubt their reality.
  • Denying or trivializing concerns and feelings.
  • Creating confusion and undermining self-confidence.

Inequality in Power Dynamics

  • Imbalance in decision-making and influence.
  • One partner exerting excessive control over the other.
  • A feeling of powerlessness or lack of autonomy.

Spotting Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Spotting these signs is imperative for individuals to assess the realities of their relationships and take appropriate steps to address and resolve toxic dynamics. If you or someone you’re close to finds themselves tangled up in abusive relationship, seeking support from friends, family, or professionals can be helpful in breaking free from harmful patterns before they escalate.

(Learn more about the difference between a toxic relationship and an abusive relationship in last week’s resource)

 

REMEMBER!

Any forms of Abuse are never your fault. Talk to someone you trust and make a safety plan.

Seeking Help

When you’re entangled in an abusive relationship or suspect someone close to you might be, taking a step to seek help is necessary for finding a resolution.

We understand that it might feel quite daunting to take that first step, but keep in mind, you’re not alone, and there might be local resources waiting to support you.

Understanding that every survivor’s journey is unique and the road to intervention differs for each person is key. Seeking help can mean various things, like opening up to a trusted friend, setting boundaries, walking away from the relationship, taking a break, or creating a safety plan.

The key is recognizing that there are many paths to steer you toward a healthier and safer environment.

You are not alone.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact the Battered Women Support Services Crisis Line:

Call toll-free: 1-855-687-1868
Metro Vancouver: 604-687-1867

Toxic Relationships vs. Abusive Relationships

Toxic Relationships vs. Abusive Relationships

Toxic Relationships vs. Abusive Relationships

Safety Resource Blog Week Three

For today’s resource, we will be distinguishing the differences between toxic and abusive dynamics, which is a must when moving through the complexities of human connections.

While both terms are often used interchangeably, it’s key to recognize the subtle yet significant differences.

Toxic relationships pack in a bunch of negativities—think constant criticism, communication black holes, and emotional puppetry, all brewing up an unhealthy environment.

On the continuum, abusive relationships involve a more severe escalation, with many different forms such as physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, control, and manipulation, creating a heightened sense of danger.

Nonetheless both environments can be unsafe, hostile and difficult to navigate.

 

Here are common types of abuse:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves any form of violence or force inflicted upon a person, causing bodily harm or injury, such as hitting, punching, or kicking.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse refers to any non-consensual sexual activity or behavior imposed on an individual, including rape, molestation, or coercion.

Online Abuse

Online abuse occurs when technology is used to harass, intimidate, or control someone, often through methods like cyberbullying, stalking, or sharing private information without consent.

Emotional and Verbal Abuse

Emotional and verbal abuse encompasses behaviours that harm a person’s self-esteem or emotional well-being, such as constant criticism, insults, manipulation, or threats.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse involves controlling or exploiting someone’s financial resources, limiting their access to money or assets, or using money as a means of power and control within a relationship.

Stalking

Stalking involves repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, or surveillance directed towards a person, causing fear or distress, either in person or through methods like phone calls, texts, or social media.

It’s important to note that abuse can manifest in various ways, and the severity may vary. For additional information on abuse or to seek support, please visit bwss.org.

 

Effects of Toxic Relationships

The impacts of toxic relationships go way beyond just simply messing with your emotions; but also affecting mental health, self-worth, and overall well-being—persisting both during the relationship and after its termination.

We need to challenging the idea that a toxic relationship without physical violence is less serious. The impact of verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse can be just as significant as the more visible forms.

Survivors of toxic relationships often face various negative consequences. Let’s take a look at what survivors of toxic relationships may encounter in the long term.

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Impaired Mental Health:

  • Persistent stress and anxiety.
  • Increased risk of depression.
  • Chronic emotional distress and instability.
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Low Self-Esteem:

  • Continuous criticism erodes self-worth.
  • Diminished confidence and self-belief.
  • Difficulty in trusting oneself and others.
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Isolation and Loneliness:

  • Alienation from support networks.
  • Limited social interactions due to toxic dynamics.
  • Prolonged feelings of loneliness and isolation.
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Physical Health Consequences:

  • Adverse impact on immune system functioning.
  • Increased susceptibility to stress-related illnesses.
  • Chronic health conditions due to prolonged stress.
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Impaired Decision-Making Skills:

  • Difficulty making choices independently.
  • Fear of consequences and hesitation in decision-making.
  • Reliance on external validation for choices.
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Emotional Detachment:

  • Fear of vulnerability and emotional closeness.
  • Emotional numbness as a coping mechanism.
  • Struggles with forming deep emotional connections.
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Trust Issues:

  • Difficulty trusting others due to past betrayals.
  • Fear of being deceived or manipulated in future relationships.
  • Guarded and cautious approach to forming new connections.
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Reduced Life Satisfaction:

  • Diminished overall happiness and life fulfillment.
  • Inability to derive joy from personal and professional accomplishments.
  • Persistent dissatisfaction with various aspects of life.
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Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms:

  • Intrusive memories and flashbacks to traumatic events.
  • Hypervigilance and heightened startle response.
  • Difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbances.
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Financial Implications:

  • Economic instability due to financial control in the toxic relationship.
  • Difficulty managing finances independently.
  • Long-term impact on career and financial well-being.
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Impact on Personal Development:

  • Stunted personal growth and development.
  • Hesitation in pursuing goals and aspirations.
  • Struggles in building a positive self-image.

Recognizing and tackling these long-term effects is key for survivors aiming to shake off the negative impact of a toxic relationship and kickstart their journey toward healing and recovery.

Getting support from friends, family, or mental health experts can be the supports you need to make a change.

REMEMBER!

Any forms of Abuse are never your fault. Talk to someone you trust and make a safety plan.

Seeking Help

When you’re entangled in a toxic relationship or suspect someone close to you might be, taking a step to seek help is necessary for finding a resolution.

We understand that it might feel quite daunting to take that first step, but keep in mind, you’re not alone, and there might be local resources waiting to support you.

Understanding that every survivor’s journey is unique and the road to intervention differs for each person is key. Seeking help can mean various things, like opening up to a trusted friend, setting boundaries, walking away from the relationship, taking a break, or creating a safety plan.

The key is recognizing that there are many paths to steer you toward a healthier and safer environment.

You are not alone.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact the Battered Women Support Services Crisis Line:

Call toll-free: 1-855-687-1868
Metro Vancouver: 604-687-1867

I’m sorry, I promise it won’t happen again!

I’m sorry, I promise it won’t happen again!

Perhaps your partner yelled insults at you, or maybe they pushed you when they were drunk or high and later apologized. What if they promise it will never happen again?

Or maybe you found out that your partner used to harass their ex-girlfriend at work. However, they say it was because she was “crazy,” made “everything” up, and since you’re “different,” there’s nothing to worry about.

How can you be sure that the abusive behavior won’t happen again?

These are questions that many victims of abuse wrestle with, caught in the tangled web of love, hope, and fear. It’s not uncommon for abusers to offer apologies, promises, and excuses in the aftermath of their actions. They may beg for forgiveness, swear to change, and plead for one more chance.

The truth is abuse does not tend to be an isolated incident, and it’s uncommon for someone with a history of abuse towards you or previous relationships to never repeat it. Often, these are warning signs of escalating abuse, which may start with coercion, intimidation, and emotional abuse before ultimately leading to physical abuse.

If your partner has a history of abusive behavior, whether physical, verbal, emotional, or psychological, it’s important to approach their apologies with caution.

 

So, does this mean they can’t change?

Change is possible; however, it’s not a quick fix and will require a lot of work and professional support. Regardless, it’s not your responsibility to stay while the abuser works on their behaviour and takes responsibility for their actions. Remember, you did not cause this behaviour, and it’s important to prioritize yourself.

 

However, if you are unsure whether or not they have changed, here are some indicators to consider:

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Are they attending regular counseling sessions?

Couples counseling does not count, as this is an issue with the individual and not the relationship. In fact, if your partner insists on couples counseling to address their abusive behavior, it may be a red flag, as they are not taking sole responsibility for their actions but rather sharing the burden.

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Abuse is a choice and not a mental illness, and it requires more than just counseling.

It’s recommended that abusers seeking to change their behaviour attend rehabilitation programs such as batterer intervention programs.

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Do they take responsibility?

Have they fully acknowledged and taken responsibility for their actions toward you or their other victims? Do they badmouth their previous victims and shift blame onto others or try to justify their actions by saying things like “My ex was always starting drama” or “they made me act like that”?

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Are they hypersensitive to criticism?

Pay attention to how they react when you offer advice or point out a mistake. If they become angry or blow up at you, making you feel scared to voice your grievances, then it’s safe to say they are still exhibiting abusive behaviors.

Keep in mind, abusers might alter their abusive patterns, and time alone isn’t sufficient to ascertain whether they have genuinely transformed.

My partner hasn’t physically abused me, but their behaviour towards me can be very toxic.

Often, abusers tend to escalate from toxic behaviours to abusive behaviours, which can also include coercive control, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse. Sometimes, early in the relationship, these may be hard to identify regardless of the severity of abuse.

 

Here are some red flags that indicate the abuse continues and is likely escalating:

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If your partner downplays the severity of their actions or shifts blame onto external factors or you, it may indicate a lack of genuine accountability.

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If your partner apologizes followed by a recurrence of abusive behavior, it suggests a pattern of manipulation and control rather than sincere remorse.

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If they are dismissing your concerns, denying the reality of past abuse, or attempting to rewrite history are all forms of gaslighting, which can further erode your sense of self and undermine your trust in your own perceptions.

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If they speak words without meaningful actions to address the root causes of the abusive behavior, such as seeking therapy, attending anger management classes, or joining a support group, it’s unlikely to lead to lasting change.

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If they are trying to control different aspects of your life like how you dress, who you can socialize with, or controlling your money.

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If they threaten to physically harm you or your children.

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If they push your boundaries or force you during sexual activities to do things you are not comfortable with.
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If they blame their outburst, anger, or violence on external environments such as drinking too much, work stress, or having a bad day.
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If they try to isolate, you from your family and friends by damaging those relationships to be the sole influence in your life.

16 Myths about Abusive Partners

  1. He’s mentally ill
  2. He misuses alcohol and or other substances
  3. He was abused as a child
  4. He has poor communication skills
  5. He just loses it; he can’t help himself
  6. He has trust and or intimacy issues and afraid of abandonment
  7. He has anger issues
  8. His previous partner hurt him, he’s still wounded by her
  9. He doesn’t know how to express his feelings
  10. He’s an alpha male, a macho, so he’s aggressive by nature
  11. You always hurt the one you love the most
  12. He has a horrible boss who is trying to keep him down
  13. He doesn’t know the rules in Canada
  14. He’s being emasculated in the world or he’s a victim racism, and/or poverty, and/or his immigration status or other discrimination
  15. Women are as abusive as any abusive man
  16. He has low self esteem

Okay, I think I need help!

It’s crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being above all else. Remember, it’s not your fault, and you do not deserve to be mistreated.

Here are some pointers for leaving and healing from an abusive relationship:

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Prioritize your health by scheduling an appointment with a medical professional to assess your physical health. Abuse can have physical impacts on your overall well-being, as well as your mental health.

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Come to terms with what cannot be changed. It’s not your responsibility to help your abusive partner “fix” or “change” their behaviour, and remember, being abusive is a choice, not a mental illness.

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Reach out to your support system and inform them of what’s been happening. Build a safe network for yourself, as this journey will be difficult.

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Limit or cut off communication with your abuser. This will help maintain healthy boundaries and reduce the likelihood of being guilted or manipulated into returning to the relationship

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Most importantly, seek professional help for safety planning, counseling, and other supports to help you reach safety.

You are not alone.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact the Battered Women Support Services at Crisis Line:

Call toll-free: 1-855-687-1868
Metro Vancouver: 604-687-1867

Mother Earth Day 2024: There is No Climate Justice Without Gender Justice

How to Identify Post-Separation Abuse Tactics and Protect Yourself

Women, who make up the majority of the world’s poor, are largely more dependent on natural resources, placing them at the front lines of climate change, with less economic resources to combat its impact.

There is a causal interrelationship between gender inequalities and environmental degradation; where the loss of biodiversity, ecosystems and climate change tend to exacerbate existing gender inequalities.

Women and in particular Indigenous women are essential agents of change in their communities to increase the resilience of their environments, as well as to mitigate and confront environmental degradation and climate change. In relation to conservation and climate actions, women generally and Indigenous women specifically have different knowledge of the social and environmental setting and differentially support environmental initiatives associated with various sectors where they uniquely contribute to the protection and sustainable management of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, which promotes the sustainability and effectiveness of nature-based solutions to the biodiversity and climate crisis facing the world.

We are excited to take part in Fashion Revolution Week 2024 as part of our ongoing, urgent work at the intersection of thrift fashion and ending gender-based violence.

Countries in the global South bear the heaviest social, gendered, and environmental burden of the fashion industry.

Women workers are toiling in sweatshops, where they work 14 to 16 hours per day, seven days a week, and endure labour abuse and sexual harassment. The fast fashion industry is also the third most polluting industry on earth.

If you share our vision for systemic change in the global fashion industry and want to get involves, or to learn more about the exploitation that is entrenched within the mainstream fashion industry, please see last week’s Ending Violence Blog “Fashion Justice.” at bwss.org.

Violence against women is rooted in unequal power relationships between men and women in society.

How to Identify Post-Separation Abuse Tactics and Protect Yourself

As Prevention of Violence Against Women Week draws to a close, it’s crucial to remember that our work doesn’t stop here. Violence against women is deeply ingrained in societies worldwide, perpetuated by systems of male dominance and privilege.

What are the Roots of Violence Against Women?

Violence against women is rooted in unequal power relationships between men and women in society. In a broader context, structural relationships of inequalities in politics, religion, media and discriminatory cultural norms perpetuate violence against girls and women.

Violence against women is a global problem and not limited to a specific group of women in society. However, the forms of violence might be shaped differently based on factors such as sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, class, age, nationality. Significantly, Immigrant and Aboriginal women are further marginalized due to ongoing racism, which contributes to violence and is internalized by marginalized people impeding their social and personal power. Poverty, isolation from family and friends, language difficulties, and homelessness also contribute to the victimization of the most vulnerable women in society.

In a male-dominant society, male privilege becomes the norm and contributes to the belief and behaviour of men that they have the right to control women

How you can bring an End to Violence Against Women?

The Role of Individuals

Each and every individual has the power to eradicate violence against girls and women by supporting and empowering one woman. There is a need for immediate action of individuals in society. It’s time to end this outrage and create a society where our mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, daughters and partners are valued, safe, and empowered.

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As individuals, being aware of violence against girls and women and exploring how we can use our power to end violence against girls and women can make a lasting difference.

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For decades, the system has been changed by movements and their advocacy work. As individuals, we can be part of a solution by joining and advocating in the anti-violence movement.

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Volunteering and supporting women’s organization allow them to continue their services for women, who experience abuse or violence, and to do more.

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Supporting violence prevention programs especially in high schools increases the ability of youth to recognize violence, transform their knowledge into action against violence, and contributes to changing systems to aid rather than impede an end to violence against girls and women.

The Role of Society

Violence against women is the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world. Women and girls are victimized in our society in ways that threaten their physical, emotional, psychological and sexual well-being.

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Society has a responsibility to pursue a socio-cultural framework that is rooted in equality and justice for women, which is supported by a legal system that holds perpetrators accountable for their actions.

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From the perspective of our government, our own constitutional philosophy of assumed equality has rejected outright the idea that women are abused simply because they are women. This allows government and judicial systems to openly avoid challenging or addressing underlying social issues and works to conceal their complicity with a socio-cultural system that largely condones and tolerates violence against women. The society has a critical role to stop any political and legal action that contributes to further oppression of women and allow for sanctions against perpetrators that are minimal or simply not enforced.

As we conclude Prevention of Violence Against Women Week, we extend an invitation to join BWSS in our ongoing efforts to release resources and take action towards violence prevention. Follow us at @endingviolence and visit bwss.org for more information and ways to get involved. Together, let’s continue striving for a safer and more equitable future for women and girls.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact the Battered Women Support Services at Crisis Line:

Call toll-free: 1-855-687-1868
Metro Vancouver: 604-687-1867