Battered Women’s Support Services provides toolkit for bystanders of gendered violence

“What does it take to end gender-based violence? It takes everything we’ve got,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of the Battered Women’s Support Services.

MacDougall with the Vancouver-based organization points to data from Statistics Canada that reported in 2018, 44 per cent of women and femmes experienced some form of psychological, physical, or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their life — “a little under half.”

As a 16 day campaign led by the UN begins Thursday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, BWSS is launching a virtual tool kit to empower survivors and bystanders in B.C.

“We think that that’s an under-representation, we think it’s far higher, somewhere into the 80 per cent,” MacDougall stresses, considering sexualized violence has been normalized.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is meant to be a call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and non-binary people.

MacDougall says the BWSS wants “to build skills that go beyond the 16 days.” Because “gender-based violence does not take a vacation,” she says the organization created a toolkit to help people 365 days a year.

Online, the BWSS has created a document for bystanders with a list of resources to help. This includes how to recognize the signs, how to support a survivor, making a safety plan, and a list of transition houses in the province.

An interactive safety planning exercise is also available for survivors.

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MacDougall emphasizes awareness is “only one step in the resolution,” adding behavioural changes in interpersonal relationships need to shift. She is also calling on all levels of government to respond to the crisis.

“I’m not saying that there aren’t services, because there are and there are more services than there were 40 years ago, which is good. However, we continue to not address the problem in major ways. And this is not lost on any government official .. but there isn’t the political will ultimately. Because at the heart of it, we’re talking about some very real truths about gender, about power imbalances along gender lines, and some of the cultural traditions that have been baked into everyday Canadian culture and everyday Canadian relationships. And this, of course, is what we’re trying to disrupt,” she said.

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Grace Lore, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity, says the province will be speaking to frontline service providers, experts, and survivors in the new year to build a gender-based violence action plan to be released by the end of 2022. According to the province, this will include “minimum standards for sexual assault response, more training for police, Crown counsel and justices, and establishing core funding for sexual assault centres.”

“We also know that Indigenous women, that racialized women, the newcomers, those with disabilities, trans and others in the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately targeted with violence, and those survivors also need to be at the center of what we’re doing,” Lore said.

While Lore admits there is still “an incredible amount of work to do,” to spread public awareness on preventing violence, she encourages people to follow the lead of survivors.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can call any of the resources below:

Ann Davis Transition Society:

24/7 Help Line: 604-792-3116 or 604-391-1993

24/7 Text: 604-819-3557

VictimLink BC:

24/7 toll-free: 1-800-563-0808

Kids Help Phone:

Day or night: 1-800-668- 6868

Helpline for Children:

Anywhere in B.C., 24/7: 310-1234

If you or someone you know is in imminent danger from abuse or assault, call 9-1-1

– With files from Claire Fenton

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