For immediate release
Women Respond to Comments by Reverend Ric Matthews of First United Church; Reiterate Calls for 24-hour Women’s Shelter and Safe Housing in DTES
March 1, 2011 – Vancouver, BC: A coalition of women and women’s organizations are outraged by First United Church Revered Ric Matthew’s comments in the Vancouver Province regarding the sexual assaults of women at the First United shelter located in the Downtown Eastside. Matthew is quoted as saying “Some women put themselves at risk because of the way they dress or undress or move around the building, they draw attention to themselves.” (source: http://is.gd/26y1QG)
According to Elaine Durocher, long-time DTES resident and member of the DTES Power of Women Group: “Those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault. Instead of taking sexual assaults against women seriously, a comment like Matthew’s stigmatizes women and sends an unacceptable message that they are to blame for assaults committed against them. This is part of a pattern of increasing attacks on women and women’s bodies across the country.”
In Manitoba, women and Aboriginal organizations have been appalled at Judge Dewar’s comments about a young Aboriginal rape survivor’s attire and sexuality. In January a complaint was filed by Osgoode Law School against a Toronto Police Service officer Constable Michael Sanguinetti who suggested that “women can avoid sexual assault by not dressing like a slut”.
Over the past several weeks, a coalition of women’s organization has been calling for a 24 hours drop-in space and shelter for women in the Downtown Eastside. They are dismayed at the lack of response by all levels of government. “BC Housing and the City of Vancouver are responsible to ensure that safe services are equally available to women in this community. Women should not have to choose between the indignity of homelessness and violence within publicly funded institutions” states Alice Kendall, Coordinator of the Downtown Eastside Womens’ Centre.
Beatrice Starr, an Indigenous woman who stayed at the First United Church Shelter for over 8 months says “All of us are someone’s mother or someone’s daughter and deserve to be treated with respect. Warehousing hundreds of people in a shelter is unacceptable; it is like residential schools. Also, increasing police presence in the shelters only makes the problem worse because mistrust of the police runs deep. Instead, all Downtown Eastside residents should have adequate and safe housing so that shelters are in fact an emergency last resort.”
“For decades women went missing and were murdered and people were silent.
Now we have knowledge of women being sexually assaulted and are we going to do nothing? Women have a right to safety – this includes more beds for women in shelters, a 24-hours women’s shelter, a couples shelter, and housing for all women and children,” states Kate Gibson of WISH Society.
Alice Kendall Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre 604-681-8480 Ext 223
Kate Gibson WISH Drop-In Centre 604-669-9474
Harsha Walia (to arrange interviews with DTES Power of Women Group):
Angela Marie MacDougall Battered Women’s Support Services 604-808-0507