Battered Women’s Support Services commemorates 40 Years Today, Battered Women’s Support Services commemorates 40 years of work on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  The event 40 Years Later… features Tarana Burke, founder of the “me too” movement and US-based advocate for survivors of sexual violence.  Set at the historic Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, BC, 40 Years Later…will include music and dance performances and the screening of a documentary outlining the role of BWSS in the global movement to end gender-based violence. “This is not a celebration.” Said Angela Marie MacDougall executive director at BWSS.  “Because all around the world, violence against girls and women continues as one of the most destructive and tolerated human rights violations, a result of historic, legal and social gendered inequality and discrimination. For 40 years BWSS has worked to change that and to literally work ourselves out of existence.” BWSS is amplifying the United Nations theme of Ending Rape for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2019.  Recently, survivors and activists have taken to social media through the hashtags: #MeToo, #WoYeShi #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc, and others, highlighting how endemic the epidemic of sexual violence is, that survivors cannot be ignored and cannot be silenced anymore. “Rape isn’t an isolated brief act.” Said Rona Amiri, Violence Prevention Co-ordinator at BWSS, “It harms the body and is baked into the memory. It can have life-altering, unchosen results—a pregnancy or a transmitted disease. Its long-lasting, devastating effects reach others: family, friends, partners, and colleagues. It shapes women’s decisions to move from communities through fear of attack or the stigma for survivors. Too many of us fail to name or challenge the rape culture that surrounds us.” Almost universally, most perpetrators of rape go unreported or unpunished. For survivors to report in the first place requires a great deal of resilience to re-live the attack, a certain amount of knowledge of where to go, and a degree of confidence in the responsiveness of the systems and services sought – if indeed there are services available to go to.  When gender-based violence is left unpunished or trivialized, it creates a pervasive culture where sexual violence is normalized, women and girls are undervalued, and entire communities and nations are left fractured.  And less than 10 percent of survivors who seek help after experiencing violence contact the police and it has been reported that 40% of reports made to police are deemed “unfounded” and no further action is taken. “Even though rape within marriage was made illegal in Canada in 1983, this is one of the most underreported form of sexualized violence.”  Said Rosa Elena Arteaga, Manager of Direct Services at BWSS.  “Last year alone we responded to calls from 335 women who told us they had been raped by their husbands or partners.  However, this is far from the true figure, because most women find it so difficult to talk about.” The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women launches the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.  BWSS has also initiated a poster campaign across Vancouver in order to spark a conversation about how only one woman out of 20 reports her non-spousal sexual assault to police. “Using posters to illustrate this startling fact was a simple way to talk about a serious subject,” says Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director at BWSS. “This was our way of getting people to think critically about violence against women and to enable survivors to know that there are avenues for them to access support, outside of the justice system, and that we’re a place for healing and we advocate for those who have experienced trauma or harassment.”

About Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) Established in 1979, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is on the front-line in the effort to end gender violence, including domestic and sexual violence.  Every day, the BWSS team takes action through the delivery of direct services, training, legal, institutional and systemic advocacy and social enterprise responding to over 15,000 requests for service annually.  Forty years later and BWSS continues as a committed member of the decolonizing and anti-oppression feminist movement emphasizing the necessity of community-based approaches and interventions into what are some of the most pressing social problems of our time. For more information:


“Because the power of #MeToo isn’t just naming it. Naming it is just the beginning of the journey” ~ Tarana Burke, founder Me Too

“Naming sexual assault, harassment and violence against women is just the start.  While the awareness the #MeToo movement has created is invaluable, we need to also organize and mobilize ourselves if we are to end violence against women.  And this is something that the Battered Women’s Support Services excels at.  For the past 40 years, they have been transforming the lives of countless women through the services, education and campaigns they provide and lead.  I  share their perspective and appreciate their commitment, passion and determination to support survivors and bring an end to violence against women.  For women who are marginalized, racialized, indigenous or who have precarious status – their work is particularly important and life-saving.  Thank you to the BWSS for the social and systemic changes you’ve already helped create and are continuing to work towards in the future.” ~ Mable Elmore MLA Vancouver-Kensington

“Gender-based violence affects us all. Movements like #MeToo, organizations like BWSS, and days of commemoration and remembrance in honour of the lives lost to violence and those who continue to endure violence in their day-to-day lives are all necessary to continue to shine a new light on the troubling prevalence of violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault within our society – within our country — patterns of behaviour that are not reflective of how we like to hold ourselves up as Canadians. We are on a journey together, where we must commit to reaffirming our conviction every day. To stop sexual violence, we must stop sexism, misogyny and discrimination. This requires breaking patterns of behaviour that are, at the core, the problem within our society. We must all affirm that everyone has the right to live a life free from violence. We must take action to end gender-based violence. We must acknowledge our collective responsibility. We must move together towards inclusivity. Broader societal forces create and influence attitudes and, while they created the prevalence of gender-based violence, they – with courage and compassion – will also end it”. ~ Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P. Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville


“Living in the truth is raw power but it’s not inevitable and it’s especially hard-fought for by survivors of violence. I’m grateful to BWSS for fighting for so many women to be able to live their truth. But as Tarana Burke says it is just the beginning: I work for the day where we not only have the power to live in the truth but also the power to create the world we want and deserve.” ~ Andrea Reimer      




Local Activists Imagine a World of Freedom & Justice“Naming it is just the beginning of the journey”…and this truth is so very well known at BWSS. For the past 40 years, staff and volunteers on the frontlines at BWSS have walked side by side with literally thousands of women and girls on this journey to speak their truth and seek safety. The unflagging commitment of this organization and everyone associated with it to meet the changing and complex needs of women seeking safety from the violence in their lives is awe-inspiring.” ~ Jennifer Johnstone, BWSS Board of Directors and CEO Central City Foundation    




  “In 1979 the founding mothers of Battered Women’s Support Services chose an unequivocal name for their new organization. They believed that women could liberate each other in support groups by telling the truth about their very hidden lives, and the first step in doing this publicly was to choose terms that did not obscure the concept in gender-neutral language and did not hide who was most harmed in domestic terrorism: women and their children. Over the years BWSS has been told that the name makes people feel uncomfortable. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, and I want to congratulate BWSS for maintaining the courage of the founders’ vision”. ~Janet Freeman, former BWSS volunteer and staff member 1985-2001      




  “It is poignant that Tarana Burke, a Black woman who grew up in economically constraining circumstances, saw what others failed to see, that sexual violence and rooted racism are deep-seated power imbalances. Eliminating gender-based violence is dependent on achieving systemic change that upends this power imbalance. The same holds true for racial dynamics that are rooted in white supremacy and patriarchal systems. We wish to commend BWSS for their 40 year commitment to freeing women and girls from violence by working for systemic change. BWSS works at the intersect that really matter to produce long term change. BWSS supports the “self-powering” of girls and women by working to achieve systemic change in institutional reform, education, economic inclusion and through the many ways they provide a “hug” of support for those most affected by violence. The local Black community are especially aware of the compounding effects of social, racial, economic and gender exclusion for creating the power conditions for gender-based violence. We at Hogan’s Alley Society have as our vision “A world where people of African Descent are free to reach their full potential”. We know first-hand the difference that BWSS has made, especially, in the life of Black women and women of colour.  We hope this organization that has been a beacon of light will continue to receive all the support it needs to continue this invaluable work of helping women and girls reach their full potential”. ~ June N. P. Francis LLB; PhD Co-Chair Hogan’s Alley Society Co-Director -The Co-Laboratorio Project Director Institute for Diaspora Research and Engagement Associate Professor, Beedie School of Business

BWSS 40 Years Later documentary trailer In 1979, five women started Battered Women’s Support Services with the goal of ending violence against women. Forty years later and the journey to end gender-based violence continues.

About Tarana Burke

Founder of the ‘me too.’ Movement and advocate for survivors of sexual violence Tarana Burke shares the story behind the genesis of the viral 2017 TIME Person Of The Year-winning ‘me too.’ Movement, and gives strength and healing to those who have experienced sexual trauma or harassment. The simple yet courageous ‘me too.’ hashtag campaign has emerged as a rallying cry for people everywhere who have survived sexual assault and sexual harassment – and Tarana’s powerful, poignant story as creator of what is now an international movement that supports survivors will move, uplift, and inspire you. #MeToo is not just an overnight hashtag sensation; Tarana has dedicated more than 25 years of her life to social justice and to laying the groundwork for a movement that was initially created to help young women of color who survived sexual abuse and assault. The movement now inspires solidarity, amplifies the voices of thousands of victims of sexual abuse, and puts the focus back on survivors. In her upcoming book, Where the Light Enters, Tarana discusses the importance of the ‘me too.’ Movement as well as her personal journey from “victim to survivor to thriver.”  Tarana’s continued work with the ‘me too.’ movement has earned her the honor of being named The Root 100‘s most influential person of 2018. A sexual assault survivor herself, Tarana is now working under the banner of the ‘me too’ Movement to assist other survivors and those who work to end sexual violence. She is now Executive Director of the ‘me too.’ organization. On stage, she provides words of empowerment that lift up marginalized voices, enables survivors across all races, genders, or classes to know that they are not alone, and creates a place for comfort and healing to those who have experienced trauma.

Generous Sponosors
  • Ivani Aparecida Adamastor
  • Davida LeComte
  • Luiza Brenner
  • Claudia Maldonado
  • Melek Ortabasi
  • Kim Wong
  • Hannah McGregor
  • Janet Lane
  • Vancity
  • LOVE Fundraising
  • Cystech Solutions Inc.
  • SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement
  • Elevate Inclusion Strategies
  • Vancouver Community College Faculty Association
  • Massy Books
  • IATSE Women’s Committee
  • Wesgroup
  • Central City Foundation