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Editorial: Try to help those hurt by gender-based violence

16 Days of Activism campaign begins Nov. 25
Beams of light are projected into the air behind a plaque placed in memory of the 14 women who were murdered Dec. 6,1989, in an anti-feminist attack in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

We need to believe those who speak up about gender-based violence, and now is the right time for it, as a 16 Days of Activism campaign is about to begin, and hopefully, motivate words and actions.

The campaign begins Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, continues until Dec. 10, World Human Rights Day. The 16 days include Dec. 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, when Canadians think about the 14 young women who were murdered at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. Being reminded of the worst case should provide motivation to try to do better individually and collectively in working toward an equal and equitable society that seeks to stamp out gender-based violence.

The Nanaimo chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women is organizing a light up of the Bastion with guest speakers Friday, Nov. 25, at 5 p.m. and Vancouver Island University’s status of women committee is hosting a vigil Dec. 6 at noon at Malaspina Theatre.

The federal government’s theme for this year is ‘It’s Not Just,’ which is surely meant to have a few meanings. According to Women and Gender Equality Canada, gender-based violence isn’t “just physical” and can include, for example, emotional violence such as threats, intimidation, insults, humiliation, controlling behaviour, stalking, cyber-stalking, dead-naming or denying someone’s gender identity.

The government notes that gender-based violence disproportionately impacts young women – one in 10 girls and women aged 15-24 are sexually assaulted, three in 10 are emotionally or financially abused by a partner, and six out of 10 experience unwanted sexual behaviours in public. Those statistics underline what we should already be aware of – that we need to listen to people who tell us they’re experiencing gender-based violence, we need to believe them, and we should intervene and try to help if that’s what they want.

It hurts when we fail to keep some of the most vulnerable members of our community free of gender-based violence. But maybe we can help keep more of them free from harm.

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