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Editorial: Make spaces safe from gender-based violence

We should try to see hidden problem during 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign started Nov. 25 and continues until Dec. 10. (Stock photo)

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign is 16 days when we should try to see what is hidden and be reminded that gender-based violence is happening in our own community.

The campaign started Nov. 25 and continues until Dec. 10. It includes Dec. 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, which honours the memory of the 14 women killed at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in 1989.

The occasion is about more than remembrance of things past – gender violence persists in an era when we should know better and do better. Numerous studies and surveys have suggested that domestic violence increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Women’s Shelters Canada finding that 61 per cent of shelters reported an increase in calls and B.C.’s Battered Women’s Support Services hotline reporting that calls quadrupled early in the pandemic.

We know, too, that there are segments of the population more likely to be affected by gender-based violence – Indigenous and racialized women and girls, for example, immigrant and refugee women and LGBTQ-plus individuals.

It’s easy to be against violence against women and girls – that’s sort of a bare-minimum response over these 16 days. Something we need to continue to do is create safe spaces, ensuring our communities, neighbourhoods, homes, workplaces and schools are places where gender-based violence is neither a reality nor a threat. As well, we can support existing safe spaces created by agencies like Haven Society or Island Crisis Care Society.

These 16 days and on other days, we should be open to learning, listening and supporting, and even intervening when gender-based violence is happening. Our efforts can make a difference for the people who need us to help them, to protect them, to believe them.

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