Vancouver Island University organizations are raising awareness about gender-based violence during 16 Days of Activism, which includes the Red Dress Project hosted by VIUSU that aims to honour the memory of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. (Vancouver Island University photo)

Vancouver Island University organizations are raising awareness about gender-based violence during 16 Days of Activism, which includes the Red Dress Project hosted by VIUSU that aims to honour the memory of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. (Vancouver Island University photo)

City proclamation calls on Nanaimo to unite to end violence against women

16 Days of Activism campaign started Nov. 25, continues to Dec. 10

All of us who know better can take some responsibility in working to eliminate gender-based violence.

The annual 16 Days of Activism campaign to eliminate violence based on gender, gender expression or perceived gender began Nov. 25 and continues until Dec. 10. Those dates have been officially proclaimed by the mayor as ‘Unite to End Violence Against Women’ in the City of Nanaimo.

The proclamation recognizes that violence against women – which can be physical, emotional or sexual – is pervasive, disproportionately experienced by indigenous women and exacerbated by COVID-19. The proclamation concludes with the hopeful note that with worldwide awareness, political commitment and adequate, sustained resources, “we will find solutions to end gender-based violence.”

Violence against women happens, mostly hidden from view, in homes in Nanaimo and across the country. The United Nations has called an intensification of violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic the ‘shadow pandemic.’

A new national survey by Women’s Shelters Canada found that 52 per cent of shelters that participated in the survey reported that clients were experiencing more severe violence. The survey also found that violence was happening more frequently, and abusers who hadn’t been violent in the past had turned to violence. Physical attacks resulted in broken bones, strangulation and stabbings. Frequency of crisis calls was lower than usual during the initial stages of the pandemic, but has increased since then.

“Overall, [shelters] are working in incredibly challenging and ever-changing environments as the pandemic continues to unfold,” the survey report noted. “However, they have continued to keep countless women and children safe, both from violence and from COVID-19, in what some have called the double pandemic.”

RELATED: Canada-wide survey of women’s shelters shows abuse more severe during pandemic

Vancouver Island University organizations are again taking leadership in working toward a future free from gender-based violence.

A press release outlined some of the initiatives of the VIU Faculty Association’s status of women committee and the Canadian Federation of University Women Nanaimo, including a red dress display, a Zoom stitch-and-bitch, a stay-at-home film screening and a virtual vigil. For more information, click here.

In addition, VIUFA and CFUW-Nanaimo are asking women and allies to post videos expressing support for the putting an end to gender-based violence.

Melissa Stephens, chairperson of VIUFA’s status of women committee, said in the university press release that front-line organizations have shifted outreach strategies during the pandemic and suggested there’s an urgency to reimagine support systems.

“The public health messaging urging us to stay home can be a terrifying prospect for people who are experiencing intimate partner violence,” Stephens said. “Women and gender minorities, in particular, may feel they have fewer options and less mobility in this context.”

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