Every six days a woman in Canada is killed by someone that was supposed to love her. By the age of 16 half of all women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence. It is estimated the cost of violence against women in Canada is $4.2 billion each year.
Violence against women exists in all cultures, ages, religions, sexual orientations, educational backgrounds and income levels in Canada.
These are statistics that need to change.
Intimate relationships are one of the most frequent places a woman will experience violence. Using violence to control a person is a deliberate, thoughtful act.
It is not a case of someone losing control, or “snapping.” Violence is used to humiliate and intimidate.
There are many excuses that an abuser will use, including alcohol and drugs. In all of these situations, however, the violence is only directed at the woman, but he is able to manage his emotions around everyone else.
An abuser will choose times and places when being violent towards a woman will have the least consequence for him.
Women stay in violent relationships for a variety of reasons. Often, the abuser has threatened to kill her, her children or family pets. They also stay for financial reasons, or beliefs about keeping a family together.
Women sometimes think they can manage the abusers behaviour if she is closer; the old saying about keeping your enemies closer comes to mind. A lot of women stay because they just don’t know how to begin to leave, or they have been convinced they can’t do it without the abuser.
Spousal abuse is often a gradual process. The number and seriousness of assaults increase over time.
Abusers will often express sadness and regret for their actions and promise to change. It can take years for women to admit the violence will never stop and that she needs to leave the relationship. Then it takes an average of seven attempts to leave a relationship, before she leaves for good.
Abuse has long-term affects that damage her self-esteem, making it more difficult to believe she deserves better treatment. Sometimes the abuse is so damaging a woman may have difficulty managing on her own.
Many adults think “the kids don’t know,” but this is not true. Children see or hear up to 80 per cent of the violence.
For a child who witnesses spousal violence, it is as harmful as experiencing it directly. Long-term exposure to the violence can affect the child’s brain development and ability to learn, including a number of emotional issues, such as anxiety, aggression, bullying, phobias and insomnia.
Children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes.
Healthy relationships lead to healthy families; healthy families lead to healthy communities; and healthy communities are everyone’s responsibility. Attitudes need to be changed, and they can be with education, awareness and a strong response to the abuse of women.
Thanks to strong advocacy campaigns, drinking and driving is no longer socially acceptable. We can do the same for violence against women in our community.
If you know a woman who is being abused, don’t judge but help her get connected safely.
Karen Beresford is the Stop the Violence Counsellor at the 100 Mile House & District Women’s Centre.