The pews at Summerside Presbyterian Church were nearly full of people gathered for the National Day of Remembrance and Action of Violence Against Women service Friday at noon.
Andy Lou Somers read the names of the 14 women who were killed 30 years ago on Dec. 6 at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.
One by one, after each name, a candle was lit to remember them.
Then, 10 more candles were lit for the Island women who were killed by intimate partners.
Nikki Gallant sang two of her original songs, written after her own experiences with intimate partner violence.
“I have a lot of these, unfortunately,” she said, before strumming “Your secrets.”
Guest speaker Cst. Lorna DeWare from Summerside Police Services started her talk with some history. She traced domestic violence back to when women were property. Men were allowed to discipline their women and that belief persisted in our culture.
It began to change in the 1970s, said DeWare, but even then, the focus was on mediation.
“Women were often re-traumatized due to the prevailing theory that men had the right to discipline their wives,” said DeWare. “(Victims) were made to feel that they had somehow contributed or provoked this behaviour. Ultimately, it made the victims feel like they had to share in their partner’s abusive behaviour.”
Things have changed, said DeWare.
P.E.I. has a zero-tolerance policy toward domestic violence. Officers can and will lay charges whenever there is enough evidence.
“It should serve as notice to them, the perpetrators, that their behaviour is not socially accepted, nor will it be tolerated, not only by our government but by our community,” said DeWare.
“As victims, I hope it serves to remind them that they have rights and that they are valued persons in our community,” DeWare said as her voice broke.