Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women
A casual look at the headlines and it’s clear that violence against women continues as one of the most pressing social issues of our time and on November 25, 2014, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) commemorates 35 years of leadership in the work to end violence against women with a celebration.
Over 180 guests are confirmed to attend an anniversary gala at Terminal City Club, in Vancouver representing women who have accessed BWSS services, former staff, local business owners, community organizations, government, police services with MC Jill Krop and a keynote address by Bif Naked.
In 1979, Battered Women’s Support Services chose their name to make visible the violence women experience in their homes, the place where it is supposed to be most safe. When BWSS began, violence against women in relationships wasn’t considered to exist at all, what was really important was recognizing that violence against women in relationships was real, that it was wrong, that there was a lot of it, as late as 1982, when Margaret Mitchell MP told the Canadian House of Commons of the prevalence of wife battering and the male MP’s laughed at her. And consider 1991, the February 14th Women’s Memorial March in Downtown Eastside Vancouver raised the alarm about missing and murdered women and now the call for a national inquiry into the murders and disappearances of over 1,200 Indigenous women and girls reverberates all across Canada. With violence against women continuing at epidemic levels fast forward to 2014, where several high profile men who have been alleged to have committed sexual violence, domestic violence and/or sexual harassment against women have experienced a level of social sanctioning in large part due to pressure brought by community through social media. These community-based actions represent the way forward into further systemic change within police services, the courts and legislative change.
“The road for change has been shaped through the empowerment, leadership and a vision brought by Battered Women’s Support Services which is helping to move individuals, communities and the larger society toward one future without violence against women.” said Angela Marie MacDougall Executive Director “Grounded in an inspired, authentic practice, BWSS has created a powerful matrix of direct services for women, advocacy, law reform, violence prevention, social innovation and community collaboration for one future without violence.”
Locally, since 1979, BWSS has registered the following changes through their work on the front-line:
- Now more than ever, woman are reaching out and seeking safety from violent/abusive relationships.
- Request for service at BWSS have more than doubled in the past eight years from 6,000 in 2006 to over 13,000 in 2014.
- Now more than ever, women are leaving abusive relationships.
- The statistics indicated a woman will stay, leave and return to an abusive relationship on average of seven times before leaving for good. Through the specialized support at BWSS women are leaving sooner and staying away.
- Now more than ever, men are recognizing their critical role in ending violence and many men own their role.
- Now more than ever, communities are recognizing their role and increasingly making women’s safety a priority along with offender accountability.
- Now more than ever, women, men, communities are pushing back against victim-blaming, making visible where the responsibility lies and holding offenders accountable now most often through the court of public opinion.
“Battered Women’s Support Services has inspired and influenced me immeasurably,” said Bif Naked. “And I am honoured to join in celebrating 35 years of their integral work ending violence. They have been our mentors and leaders, lighting the way in the fight against violence against women, and working in the front lines dealing with violence and providing support, intervention, education, and services to thousands of women. BWSS staff and volunteers are my teachers and I am grateful for the example they provide to the rest of us, so that we may step-up our own activism and advocacy, in the name of ending violence against women in our community.”
Since 1979, over 250,000 women have benefited from BWSS crisis line, support groups, counselling, legal advocacy and training. Every day, women living with violence and fear for the future for themselves and their children call or come to BWSS for safety planning, support groups, crisis intervention, accompaniment, court support, information, referral, employment programming, lawyer referral, trauma-informed counselling and outreach.
“There has been real progress, we’re going to celebrate all the amazing work that has been done.” said Jennifer Johnstone, BWSS Chair, Board of Directors. “But we’re also renewing our commitment to continuing the struggle to end violence against women.”