Local organizations in Metro Vancouver raise awareness of gender-based violence

Local organizations are working to increase awareness of the rise in gender-based violence, as Saturday marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

A local sexual violence support centre is calling attention to the increase in demand for its services, as Saturday marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Dalya Israel, executive director at Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre, says demand for support has increased since the centre opened 40 years ago.

The organization’s phone line is open 365 days a year and is currently receiving an average of 6,000 calls annually from people across the province who need support after violent incidents.

Israel says these incidents can take many forms — from text messages or sexual comments, to unwanted touching or sexual intercourse without consent. She says it can happen with a complete stranger or even an intimate partner.

“We offer hospital companionship to sexual assault services at General Vancouver Hospital and UBC urgent care,” Israel said. “We also support people navigating systems, like the criminal and legal system, after they have experienced sexual harm.”

In Coquitlam, the RCMP has put up purple lights to raise awareness about intimate partner violence, which is one of Coquitlam’s most common crimes. Mounties say they attend to an average of 42 intimate partner violence calls per month.

Cpl. Alexa Hodgins says these calls can involve anything from assault, to criminal harassment, to mischief, to theft, so long as it’s a current or former partner who is committing these actions as a way of “getting back” at another partner.

“In Coquitlam, this year, we have had a couple fatal partner violence (incidents),” Hodgins said.

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, a woman dies every six days in Canada due to intimate partner crimes.

Hodgins says anyone can use ‘Court Services Online’ to look up partners by name to see if they have an previous criminal convictions.

“This is all open source information and is a good tool for people who are in a new relations to gauge the type of person they are becoming familiar with,” Hodgins said.

Israel says by bringing more awareness to intimate partner violence, more survivors may feel more comfortable coming forward to seek support.

“We have to recognize by having conversations and having a cultural tipping point, a lot more people can come forward,” Israel said.

“We have some systems that say some genders are more important than others, so these conversations need to start happening early. They need to be fueled by the desire to see each other in our full humanity.”

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