By Michelle Poirier
The Town of Georgina, represented by Ward 4 Councillor Dale Genge, joined Yellow Brick House and Sandgate Women’s Shelter to raise the Wrapped in Courage flag at the Civic Centre, commemorating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on December 6.
“We honour the memory of 14 young women who were killed at Polytechnique Montréal on December 6, 1989,” said Michelle Smith, Executive Director of the Sandgate Women’s Shelter, during her opening remarks.
“This event was not an isolated example of gender-based violence; in fact, gender-based violence impacts one in three women. The most tragic cases result in women being murdered every 2.5 days in Canada.”
“This year alone, we had 52 femicides in 52 weeks. So, if you think about that, one woman in Ontario lost their life every week of this past year.”
The annual Wrapped in Courage campaign, organized by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH), was started ten years ago to bring attention to the issue of violence against women.
During November, women in Ontario are encouraged to purchase and wear purple scarves to show their support for survivors of violence against women.
Lorris Herenda, CEO of Yellow Brick House, an organization that provides emergency shelter and prevention programs for women and children, says she is proud of the municipalities in York Region, including Georgina, that fly the Wrapped in Courage flag.
“The flag is a symbol that shows abused women and children that we as a community care. It also shows that the courage of a woman alone is not enough; it’s not about ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’ She has to have the support to leave an abusive relationship. She has to have a place to go to stay safe,” she said.
“We asked the community to wear the purple scarves or purple ties to show support and our commitment to continue working together to eradicate violence against women and children.”
According to Herenda, gender-based violence is rising nationally — up more than 30 per cent from the start of the pandemic — and often spikes during the holidays.
She says there’s a 30 per cent increase in women calling their crisis line at this time of the year.
“The holiday season tends to bring about a lot of stress factors that are then used as an excuse to escalate the violence in the home,” she said.
“Often women will reach out for support because they feel their lives are threatened, or their children’s lives are in danger. So, we see a spike in our crisis calls and also an increase in women seeking shelter space.”
Smith says more communication is needed around the issue of violence against women.
“Talk with our daughters, sisters, aunts, and most importantly, our young men. I think we often leave half of our population out of the conversation and focus on helping our young women, but our young men are suffering and will continue to do so until we start to highlight the issues,” she said.
“It’s like osmosis; they witness and pick up those behaviours. So, there’s a great responsibility. And it’s that old adage a small group of women can make a huge impact. And today, I hope that each one of you leaves here and at least talks to one person.”
Herenda hopes that York Region communities will continue supporting women’s shelters, allowing them to keep beds open for those escaping abuse. And she asks residents to donate gift cards, so women in shelters can buy a gift for their children during the holidays.
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