Creating Safe Cities & Sexualized Violence in the Age of COVID-19

Vancouver Reopens & Sexual Assaults by Strangers Rise


July 1st saw the long awaited return of Vancouver’s nightlife after months of closures and restrictions. As BC moved into Step 3 of it’s Restart Plan the hospitality industry rejoiced having struggled to stay afloat through the pandemic. The reopening signals a return to another normal – one of unaddressed, rampant stranger-based assaults in Vancouver’s nightlife.


Vancouver Granville Strip at Night

Vancouver’s Granville Strip at Night (Photo Credit: Will Young,


BWSS Takes to The Streets! Safety Changes Everything.


In the last year, BWSS saw a growing number of women and girls in need of street-based interventions and resources and in May of this year launched their street-based Outreach Program ‘Safety Changes Everything’. The goal of the Safety Changes Everything Team is to be a visible presence within communities. Building relationships with women and girls to community-based resources, as well, and providing immediate crisis-interventions.



Responding to the to growing numbers of street-based, stranger-based assaults on the Granville Strip , BWSS teams are increasing their presence amongst Vancouver’s nightlife. The Safety Changes Everything Team, wants people to know if they are in distress and experiencing sexualized-violence or abuse to reach out. The Safety Changes Everything Team is available to provide immediate crisis response, emotional support, connect people to resources, advocacy and accompaniment to police, the hospital or medical services.

BWSS has been calling for action by the City of Vancouver, particularly in the Downtown Eastside and  Granville Entertainment District since early this year. Confirming what the Safety Changes Everything Team had been reporting, last week VPD released new figures which show a 129% increase in reported cases in the month of July alone – prompting them to relaunch the Hands Off! campaign.

Rarely though are sexual assaults reported to the police.


Constable Tania Visitin Press Conference

Vancouver police Const. Tania Visintin says even with the recent increase in reports, sexual assaults are vastly underreported. (CBC News)



City of Vancouver and the UN Safe City Initiative


Vancouver is one of six Canadian cities which is part of the UN Safe Cities and Public Spaces Initiative – a global initiative led by UN Women. The initiative aims to address gender-based and sexualized violence and harassment by focusing on the City’s policies, planning, programs and services and how they can be changed and applied to increase safety and build safer public spaces.

BWSS knows that gender-based, sexualized violence and physical expressions of violence are systemic issues. We know that prevalent normalization of violence and attitudes and beliefs rooted in racism, colonialism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia and ableism express themselves in ways that harmful and often deadly – particularly for Black, Indigenous, immigrant Women of Colour and 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities.

BWSS has been on the frontlines of work to create safe public spaces for decades – working in partnership with TransLink, bars & night clubs, and through our street-based community outreach team. As advocates for women and children experiencing gender-based, sexualized violence and harassment we routinely bring forward recommendations at all levels of government on policy and legislation which directly impacts Women’s safety in public spaces.

The City of Vancouver is now in the first phase, scoping study of the initiative. This involves a survey to gain a deeper understanding of gender-based violence and sexualized violence and harassment in public spaces.

The survey is open to anyone who has experienced or witnessed gender-based and sexualized violence or harassment in Vancouver. Examples include unwanted touching, cat-calling, being followed, or homophobic, transphobic, and racist harassment.

The survey is available in English, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Punjabi and Spanish


Some of the questions on the survey could bring back or remind you of upsetting or traumatic memories and trigger uncomfortable to intense emotions, sensations or other responses. If you are feeling triggered during the survey, feel free to stop at any point or take a break and come back to it.

BWSS is available through our 24-hour Crisis Line by phone 604-687-1867 for those requiring support and resources.

More details on this The City of Vancouver’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Initiative can be found at

Gender-based Violence is on the Rise

Tune in at 5:45pm PT today to CBC News, Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa, as Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director, discusses gender-based violence in Canada.

A National Action Plan is Ready to Get on the Road

According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability Gender-based Violence is on the rise

92 women and girls have been killed by violence so far in 2021 – with a male partner or acquaintance as the prime suspect. At the top of the list of number of killings, Ontario, Quebec and BC. And a continued overrepresentation of Indigenous women and girls.

On Monday, a woman was killed in Montreal. Her male partner is the primary suspect and he’s on the lam. This is Quebec’s 14th femicide of the year. And most likely it won’t be the last – as sadly we’ve seen that the upward trend of femicide rates continues across Canada.

BWSS was part of an expert group to develop the framework and content of Canada’s first National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence, delivered to government.

This is a historic project led by Women’s Shelters Canada. With our contribution to this project, we are committed to amplifying the voices and resilience of marginalized communities –Black, Indigenous, Immigrants, LGBTQ2S and non-binary people.

The Canadian government must invest billions not millions to address this epidemic.

Society is not doing enough to prevent gender-based violence and protect survivors and their families.  Gender-based violence can’t continue to be ignored as thousands of women live in fear.

So this is why we stay on the frontline.


Gender-based Violence is on the rise

2021 Mid-year Report, Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability from


National Symposium on Intersections of Violence Against Women and Precarious Immigration Status

National Symposium on Intersections of Violence Against Women and Precarious Immigration Status

June 5, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario Canada

On June 5, 2014, the Migrant Mothers Project and Woman Abuse Council of Toronto will host a National Symposium to address how immigration policy changes are impacting immigrant women’s safety and rights and Battered Women’s Support Services is thrilled to be involved in this important event at this critical time.  The symposium brings together thought and practice leaders who work in immigration settlement, ending violence against women, immigration and refugee law and advocates for temporary foreign workers.

Battered Women’s Support Services is looking forward to collaborating again with Migrant Mothers Project to illuminate how forced migration is gendered and in that gendering exposes women to a broad spectrum of violence.  BWSS Rosa Elena Arteaga will present “Immigration Policy Does Not Recognize the Spectrum of Violence Against Women”.  And as she wrote last November in Women are continually forced to leave their land and migrate to a foreign country where they will be discriminated against based on their social location. Racialized and marginalized migrant women face the most oppressive and unsafe alternatives to flee from their countries and they, are not just simply allowed to enter Canada, they are screened and chosen based on the immigration laws and the policies implemented by the current governmental administration.

Once a migrant woman makes it into Canada, she might have been trafficked-or she might have come as a refugee claimant, through sponsorship, on visitor’s visa, under temporary work permit or undocumented, among other alternatives.  Her immigration status will play a huge role on the level of barriers and oppression that she will face as well as the services available to her. Many migrant girls and women will continue experiencing all forms of violence such as physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse from intimate partners, family members or extended family. The process of migration and a precarious immigration status makes girls and women more vulnerable to experience further violence, by the state, by employers, and within their relationships.

With this in mind, we, at Battered Women Support Services support migrant women with precarious immigration status, non-status, refugee claimants and permanent residents who have or are experiencing violence. We are strongly committed to understanding and recognizing that migrant women don’t “just come” to Canada, migrant women flee from their countries under extreme circumstances and with an immense need for support to overcome the impacts of gendered violence, the impact of migration and the complex process of adaptation.  We have taken many steps to ensure that we provide the appropriate support but also that we affect systemic change.

Here’s more about the National Symposium and Migrant Mother’s Project

For details go to:

Register at:

June 5th 2014 Symposium Poster Invitation Final-page-001

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



Cyber-Violence Against Women

Recognizing and Resisting Gender Violence in the Online Environment

Seeing an emergence of cyber-violence against women both as a weapon against women and an environment where women are made to feel unsafe, Battered Women’s Support Services dug deeper to develop our analysis of this type of violence. We initiated Cyber-Violence Against Women:  Recognizing and Resisting Gender Violence in the Online Environment research project to determine:

  1.  in what ways women are experiencing cyber-violence against women,
  2. how this type of violence impacts women’s lives,
  3. how women resist and fight back against this type of violence and
  4. how the community responds to women who experience cyber-violence.

“As information and communication technologies continue to advance, it has become easier and faster for us to communicate with one another, to distribute ideas and information and to make connections with people that transcend geographic and spatial boundaries. What we have noticed at Battered Women’s Support Services is that as use of information and communication technologies has become more ubiquitous, the use of these technologies as a weapon against women has also become ubiquitous.

Not only that, but internet and social media has also become an environment where women are made to feel unsafe and are threatened. Violence against women is being committed through the use of media such as texting, email, Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, LinkedIn, YouTube and just about any other internet or social media platform you can think of. We have decided to term this type of violence, cyber-violence against women.” – Jessica  West, Researcher of Cyber-Violence Against Women Report.

In today’s world, we are not only living in a physical environment, many of us live significant portions of our lives online. As with any environment, the online environment can expose women to behaviours that are meant to humiliate, shame, or silence women with devastating consequences as evidenced by the experiences and deaths of Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott.   

Today, the parents of Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, and Jamie Hubley met with Canadian Members of Parliament, Commons Justice Committee to give their views on Bill C-13.    Bill C-13, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, proposes to criminalize the non-consensual distribution of intimate images online. This bill is delivered to the Canadian public after an onslaught of experiences of cyber-bullying and gender violence, particularly amongst the youth population.

While this effort may have positive impact and provide criminal legal remedy, the Bill fails to recognizes many root causes of gender-based violence and sexual harassment in online environment. It is critically important to make the link between cyber-bullying, online gender violence and the spectrum of violence against women in physical environment to address the problem and find solutions.

Through Cyber-Violence Against Women:  Recognizing and Resisting Gender Violence in the Online Environment Battered Women’s Support Services makes visible the very real way girls and women are impacted and how girls and women resist.  We hope this will further our collective understanding of what cyber-violence against women is, and that it will be the beginning of a conversation about what needs to change, in both society and in policy to end cyber-violence against women.

Read our Cyber-Violence Against Women prepared by Jessica West here and please share widely.


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







Cyber Bullying as Gender-based Violence

Power and Control in Online Environment

Advances in technology and social media platforms have brought many opportunities for us to share our voices and interact with each other beyond physical space. At the same time though it has also resulted in online platforms being used for sexual violence to attack, humiliate, shame, silence and publicly expose women and girls. Those attacks have real and devastating consequences. In the last year alone, our society failed Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott as a result of cyber gender-based violence.

We live in a society that is hierarchical, structured based on various factors such as gender, race, sexual orientation to name a few, that reproduces and exerts power and control over women in different forms and it clearly shows its face in our current online environment.

To shift the culture of violence, Battered Women’s Support Services is conducting a research project to reveal and critically analyze cyber gender-based violence women and girls are experiencing.

We want to hear from women about their experience(s) of violence and/or abuse in the online world. Revealing and sharing our experiences, will help us at BWSS to understand the impact of such violence on women’s lives, the ways women fight back, and how the community responds. It is vital to develop an analysis of why this type of violence against women and girls is happening and what needs to be done to stop it.

We invite you to share your experiences and insights by completing this survey. Your responses will remain anonymous and your personal information will be kept confidential. The information we gather from the survey will be compiled in a report that will further our collective understanding of gendered violence and social media.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.