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"Be the Change" Breakfast to end Violence against Women

On Thursday, March 19th, Gillian’s Place hosted the 2nd Annual “Be the Change” Breakfast at Club Roma in St. Catharines. This event includes breakfast and an hour long presentation about the effects of abuse on families in our community, heard personally from a guest speaker and former resident of Gillian’s Place. The program also touches on the important role Gillian’s Place has in supporting abused women and children in Niagara. With one in four women in Canada living with abuse, the impact of domestic violence is huge and the need for community support is tremendous.

With over 225 people in attendance, the event was a great success in raising awareness about the issue of domestic violence. Gillian’s Place would like to thank all those who attended the Breakfast, including registration and table host volunteers, whose hard work and support made the event possible.

For information about the 3rd Annual “Be the Change” Breakfast to end Violence against Women, please contact Nicole Regehr at 905-684-4000 ext. 231.

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The St. Catharines Standard featured an article: "Let's fight violence against women together" by Erica Bajer

Because I am a woman, there's a one in three chance that I'll be the victim of violence at some point in my life.

It's a startling statistic to read. It's a heartbreaking statistic to see.

At Gillian's Place, one in three is so much more than a number. It's the battered woman knocking on the shelter door at 3 a.m. It's the elderly woman who had the courage to finally leave during the last act of her life. It's the children whose fearful eyes never leave their mother as they are tucked in at the St. Catharines shelter.

"We all know someone, who is it in your life?" asked Gillian's Place executive director Anne Armstrong during a breakfast aimed at raising money and awareness Thursday.

It wasn't a rhetorical question. We all do know women in our lives who are, were or will be the victim of violence at some point. The odds of it happening at the hands of a partner - one in four.

Only a tiny fraction of them will ever reach out for help. Gillian's Place estimates there are about 20,000 incidents of domestic violence in Niagara per year. Police are called to less than half of those and in 2014, there were 2,355 crisis calls to Gillian's Place.

Last year, 294 women and children lived in the 34-bed shelter. It's always full and has been since it opened in 1977 with eight beds.

"We have been full to overflowing ever since," Armstrong said. "Every aspect of our service is at capacity."

The shelter offers more than a roof - there's safety planning, counselling, legal services, children's programs. The list goes on.

Gillian's Place costs $2 million a year to run and to maintain current levels of service, it has to raise at least $500,000 of that.

Armstrong worries it's not sustainable. She worries about the future of the shelter and its services for the growing number of women who need help.

One of the shelter's two main fundraisers is coming up on June 6.

I'm participating in the annual Walk for Women as a "leader of hope" along with a group of other women - Karen Tribble, Shannon Passero, Ruth Unrau, Julie Shields and Katarina Chataway - who stand behind the important work of Gillian's Place.

I agreed to take on a leadership role because the issue of domestic violence is something I care about personally and professionally.

In my 15 years as a journalist - 10 as a crime reporter - I've covered countless cases involving domestic violence. Too many of them ended in murder.

While the tragic cases pulled at heartstrings and elicited outrage in the community, too often there was also judgement.

I can't tell you how many times I heard: "Why didn't she just leave?"

It's a question asked by those who have never experienced violence, powerlessness or fear.

The reasons women don't reach out for help are as varied as the women living in abusive relationships. They are complex and almost always rooted in fear - fear of being hurt or killed, fear of not being able to provide, fear of being alone, fear of failure. I could go on.

The question itself, is a reason women don't speak out. There's a stigma. Judgement is a form of oppression.

To help stop the stigma, a hashtag is being used to empower women. Tweet your thoughts using #becauseiamawoman. Let's start a conversation about violence against women. Why does it exist? How can we fight it? Why do we blame the victims?

#becauseiamawoman I stand beside women who have the courage to leave abusive relationships.

For more information about the Walk for Women visit www.walkforwomenniagara.ca

Click Here for The Standard Article

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