BY YVONNE DEAGLE
Another year has passed since the terrible massacre that took place at l’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989. Twenty-nine years ago. On that sad day, 14 women were killed during a mass shooting because of their gender. That day marks a historic moment, the beginning of focused efforts against violence against women in Canada and the origin of the Purple Ribbon Campaign Against Violence Against Women. Since that day, 10 women on Prince Edward Island have been murdered, telling us there is more work to do.
Every year the P.E.I. Advisory Council for the Status of Women leads the Purple Ribbon Campaign. The theme this year is that it is “Time to step up” and be ready to prevent violence against women. As always, the questions arise. When is the right time to step up? What is the best way to help that will make a difference?
Last year’s Purple Ribbon Campaign asked us to “stand with” victims of violence. “Standing with” means being there to listen and to believe, then to act whenever we suspect acts of violence are being committed – but always with precautions for our own safety.
The Purple Ribbon Campaign this year reminds us to be more observant, to learn how to be ready to help. One part of being ready is being able to recognize risk factors involved with future violence. Knowing the signs to look for could save a life.
If we worry someone may act violent towards a partner, we can prevent harm by knowing and looking for risk factors of violence. Has this person used violence in the past? Has the violence become more frequent? Has the person ignored or broken a court order to stay away from a person or place?
Has the person made threats? Does the person have access to weapons? Pending or recent separations can be a risk factor for violence. A history of alcohol or drug usage, obsessive behaviour, depression, or threatened or attempted suicide can be risk factors, especially in combination with other factors.
If we know someone whom we think is in danger, we need to step up and be there for that person and to let them know we are there for them.
Violence has already caused too much grief in our modern-day society, where it has almost become a norm. This year in Canada, at least 131 women have been murdered and more have gone missing. The number of dead increases every few days. In most of these murders, the women’s gender – the simple fact they were women – was a factor in their deaths. The time has come to realize that work against violence that gained attention with the #MeToo movement needs to continue in order for change to happen.
Men have an important part to play in stepping up by speaking up against gender violence and working together to prevent gender violence. We look forward to Family Violence Prevention Week 2019, which will focus on the role men and boys can, and do, play in our society. We hope boys will learn from the role models in their lives that there is no place for messages that demean and objectify women.
Everyone has a part to play in preventing violence against women. We hope you will wear a purple ribbon during the Purple Ribbon Campaign. It is indeed our turn to step up, listen, and believe. We can be ready to act when we observe risk factors for using violence. We can work to create a world where being a woman or a gender minority is no longer a risk factor for being a victim of violence.
- Yvonne Deagle, chairperson, P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women