Battered Women’s Support Services Commemorates 35 Years of Work to End Violence Against Women
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 180 people came out to the Terminal City Club in Vancouver, BC to acknowledge the work and leadership of Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS).
“Warm greetings to all of you gathered here to celebrate the 35th anniversary recognizing the need for services for battered women. Little has changed in society to stop the violence against women since I spoke out in the House of Commons many years ago. Your efforts are greatly needed and appreciated.” ~ In Sisterhood Margaret Mitchell former Member of Parliament Vancouver East
Audrey Siegl from the Musqueam Nation welcomed the guests to the territory.
Jennifer Johnstone, BWSS Board Chair
I am so very honoured to represent the current Board of Directors for Battered Women’s Support Services tonight. I am humbled as there are some seriously impressive women on our Board of Directors and I would like to ask them to stand and be recognized here this evening.
On behalf of the Board, staff and everyone at BWSS I would like to express our deepest appreciation to tonight’s sponsors, without whose generous contributions, we would not be here tonight: Cascadia Inc., Hub International, Growth Point, Urban Native Youth Association, Front and Company, Walk This Sway, and Roxanne Nikki.
I am also surprised to be here tonight. It was almost 20 years ago when I was on staff at BWSS and responsible for fundraising, and I have to tell you that I never envisioned a gala the likes of this in my wildest dreams. Thank you all for being here tonight and helping us celebrate our past and secure our future. Some may be wondering what I’m still doing here after all these years. But the answer is a simple one. It is because of the women. The courageous women who need BWSS services and support to end the violence in their lives and the dedicated, incredible staff of Battered Women’s Support Services who are there every day helping women. I would like to invite all the staff to stand, so that we express our appreciation once again for all you do.
But, they can’t do it without us and by us I mean donors. Tonight, I would like to invite you all to join me as monthly donors to Battered Women’s Support Services and become a member of our Circle of Strength. Every donation, no matter how small, every dollar will make a difference to this organization and our ability to continue to provide authentic, excellent services and support to women wherever they are at.
I’d like to start by naming and honoring our founding mothers, who weren’t able to be here tonight: Frances Wasserlein, Debra Lewis, Jan Barnsley, and Ajax Quinby. Gene Errington began the first support groups for battered women.
Here tonight, in order of their time at BWSS. Please stand when I say your name:
Tamara Adilman, Kelly Hardman, Tracy Barker, Setsuko Hirose, Christine Basque, Vinita Chand, Jennifer Johnstone, Laura Quilici, Regiane Garcia, and Angela Marie MacDougall.
Women I’ve talked to recently, who could not be here tonight, but send their best wishes:
Ruth Chitty, Gail Edinger, Laraine Stuart, and Karen Larcombe.
I was so privileged to work with these women. And I congratulate the current staff and Board for continuing this vital work and keeping it grounded in the community.
BWSS started as a recommendation from a United Way Task Force that recommended support groups for abused wives and early funding was provided by the United Way and the City of Vancouver.
Just a mention of how truly radical the support group model was, back in 1979. Our service delivery model was based on what battered women told us really helped them. Rather than violence being seen as an individual woman’s problem to solve – which is what often happened in traditional therapy, support groups encouraged women to identify common concerns and solve them together. Many women chose to go on to join social change movements themselves. And when we developed a peer counselling model, we emphasized that a woman is the expert in her situation. Battered women taught me a great deal about survival in the face of daunting odds. I was constantly inspired by their bravery and persistence.
To all the women of BWSS past and present: women with power, intelligence, talent, grace and spirit, with your vision and compassion to others: keep on shining.
Tonight, I join you in celebrating this important social change work towards ending violence with these words from Arundhati Roy, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”.
Rosa Elena Arteaga, Manager of Direct Services and Clinical Practice
Thanks Jill and thanks to all of you for coming tonight to celebrate our 35th anniversary! I feel so privileged to be given this moment to share some words with all of you.
First of all I would like to acknowledge the thousands of girls and women who have experience gendered violence and who have taken the enormous step to access Battered Women’s Support Services in order to improve their lives and the lives of their families.
It is not easy to break the silence. I want to recognize the strength that it takes to pick up the phone and make an appointment with a stranger.
I have been asked many times by friends, service providers, and community members about why do I do this kind of work or “how can you do that work!” I do this work because I want to contribute to changing the world. I believe I have a responsibility to acknowledge the power relations and structural inequalities in society that impact girls and women.
Through my work, I assist women in re-authoring their stories not only by developing alternate stories but also by providing the space for them to include some of the most neglected but potentially significant events and experiences that have contributed to their knowledge and ultimately to their freedom from violence.
Many girls and women who come to see me are not just dealing with one incident of abuse or violence. The majority of them have gone through a spiral of gendered violence, starting from the moment they are born and arching over their whole lives.
Throughout their journeys, women take many steps to become free from abuse and violence. They try to transform their lives persistently. Though, every time that a woman breaks free from gender violence, another face of gender oppression will appear again.
Many times women have indicated to me that they do not know if they should ask for support because their lives have been full of turmoil, and they believe things will never get better.
We, at BWSS provide a foundation for girls and women to stand in their own power and take steps towards changing their future and the future of their families.
I do this work because I see change every day. I do this work because I am not alone. I do this work because I have a group of remarkable co-workers and volunteers who work alongside with me. I do this work because I am a mother of a son and a daughter, and I want to change the world for them. I do this work because I am part of an organization that has affected change and remains committed to carry on until all women are free from violence!
If you are supporting BWSS, thank you. If you want to support BWSS I invite you to do it now!
Brandy Kane, BWSS Manager of Indigenous Women’s Program
First of all I would like to acknowledge the shared territories of the Musqueum, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. It is a privilege to live and work on these beautiful lands.
My name is Brandy Kane, my ceremonial name is Thunder Eagle Woman. I am St’at’imc from Lillooet BC. I am the Indigenous Women’s Program Manager at Battered Women’s Support Services. I believe in Indigenous ways of healing through culture and ceremony. Within an empowering and wholistic framework we are able to work in a culturally appropriate manner. By using wholistic practices through traditional medicines and ceremonies, we are healing from violence and trauma, and women are finding their voices and standing strong in their power.
I am also closely connected to spirit and ceremony, which I have witnessed benefit the Indigenous community when healing from addiction, trauma, mental health and other afflictions related to colonization, assimilation, and the intergenerational effects of residential school. The Indigenous women’s program incorporates ceremony such as sweat lodges, Grandmother Moon ceremony, and pipe ceremonies into the work we do.
The Indigenous women’s program runs many support groups annually and those include an Elder’s support group, Women Seeking Safety, The Courage to Heal, and Chronic Pain Management are just to name a few. The Indigenous Women’s Program consists of the Indigenous Women’s Crisis Victim Support Worker, Miss Buffie Irvine, and myself. I’d like to say a big thank you to Buffie for her hard work and at times challenging work. Kukwstumc Buffie.
Our program also relies on the support of volunteers. Tonight two of our volunteers in our program are here. Thank you to Teresa Howell and Alex O’Donaghey for their continued and ongoing support. We are blessed to have such a great group of women who come out every week and support our programs and are passionate in our fight to end violence against women and girls.
It is extremely important as a wholistic practitioner that we use decolonizing and reclaiming practices that I know work for the women that we work with. I have seen the changes and transformations that have happened with the women when culture and tradition is introduced.
One of the cultural groups run through BWSS where women are finding their voices and standing strong in their power is Wildflower, Women of Turtle Island Drum group. It is a group that meets weekly to sing songs, support one another, and learn protocols around songs from different nations and territories. It is with great pleasure to introduce my sisters from Wildflower, Women of Turtle Island.
Rona Amiri, BWSS Violence Prevention Coordinator
Dating violence is the highest among young women between the ages of 15 to 24 in Canada- making up 43% of all incidents.
The normalization of sexism, inequality and discrimination in our society creates an environment where violence against girls and women is possible. Violence prevention is about addressing the root causes of gender violence and is important for a long-term solution to end men’s violence against women.
Dating violence in youth relationships is underreported and rarely discussed. By talking to youth about healthy relationships and discussing what abusive dating behavior looks like, we can prevent intimate partner violence. Our youth ending violence program is about empowering young people in prevention of gender-based violence through peer-education. The workshops are co-facilitated by amazing young women and men who are passionate and committed to ending violence.
We have seen the positive impact of the work that we do-many youth thank us for the presentation, as it is one of a kind in our province! We provide a safe space where youth can learn, share their thoughts and gain valuable skills. Based on our evaluations 90% of students indicated a greater awareness of dating violence and 50% indicated that after participating in the workshops it would lead to a change in their behaviour.
It is an exciting time for our youth program as we engage young men and young women to take a stance against violence! In the last two years we have reached over 4,000 students in the Greater Vancouver area- who now have the tools to create social change!
With the increased awareness and media attention intimate partner violence has been receiving this is an ideal time to promote healthy relationships and encourage discussions. We all have a role. Support the girls and boys in your life. Ending intimate partner violence means that youth and adults must equally participate in discussion and solutions. We need to talk about equality and demonstrate positive examples of equal relationships so that young people can see what it looks like in action. By becoming a monthly donor, you will be supporting the continuation of this vital work and ensure that we are able to reach, support and empower as many youth as possible.
I would now like to share with you a short film produced by BWSS In 2012, during the pilot project of the youth ending violence. It was filmed and directed by Indigenous filmmaker Cowboy Smith. Thank you for your support and enjoy the rest of your evening.
Read more about the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign: