Every day women and girls are assaulted in Williams Lake.
According to the Women’s Contact Society executive director Irene Willsie, who spoke passionately to city council Tuesday about the situation, 35 per cent of women have experienced violence in some form worldwide.
“Most assaults are not reported and it is very seldom front page news,” she said of the assaults. “It’s not talked about in restaurants, pubs and dinner parties.”
Willsie said violence is not only present in gangs, bars and poverty-stricken neighbourhoods, it’s thriving in sports locker rooms, board rooms, business meetings and most particularly on social media.
“Society needs to have the hard conversations about violence against women. We can’t sterilize it, we can’t make it light, we need to talk candidly about it and that takes courage.”
Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Warren Brown said he doesn’t think police will ever be able to accurately gauge the volume of crime related to domestic violence.
“Unlike an auto theft or a robbery where there’s a tangible measure where something is actually happened or missing, because it’s behind closed doors, the public is not able to witness that.”
The police strictly rely on reports from a neighbour hearing a noise and reporting or people in the community and stakeholders who learn of domestic violence through third hand information.
“I am positive about Williams Lake, the Irene Willsies (of the community) and other groups who have made strong efforts to make the community very aware of domestic violence,” Brown said.
Feminism is not a dirty word, Willsie said.
“It’s not about making women better, it’s not about hating men, it’s not about blaming men. It’s about dignity, respect and opportunity.”
Society’s attitude about girls and women causes violence, not poverty, drugs and alcohol, she added.
“Violence isn’t caused because a woman gives someone a reason to smack her and sexual assaults are not caused because of what she’s wearing.”
In Williams Lake, the community is doing some things right when it comes to tackling violence against women, Willsie said.
There are services for victims of violence and the RCMP are working with the community.
Over the past year an integrated case assessment team started up in Williams Lake. And while it takes a lot of work, there hasn’t been a dime of funding from the province, Willsie said.
“It’s being done because everybody involved in supporting victims and keeping women and girls safe recognizes that a collaborative community based approach is a best practice.”
Other programs include the community team called the K-File committee that addresses domestic assault files, a violence awareness committee and Circles of Strength.
“We have these vigorous programs and will be looking at strategies in the near future to make our programs more efficient and focus on some gaps we may have,” Brown said.
Last month RCMP Staff Sgt. Ken Brissard, during in a crime report to city council, said by the end of Oct. 31, 76 spousal assaults had been reported to the police.
In 2012, 99 were reported in total.
The number of reports are down from 2012, but up from the numbers reported between 2008 and 2011.
Willsie told council she is challenging men to be leaders and speak out against violence against women.
“Don’t ignore that comment about somebody’s skirt being short. Don’t ignore those sexist jokes.”
Willsie said everyone has a role in stopping violence because the challenges implicate every community, in every nation in the entire world.It involves women and most pointedly men.
This year the Women’s Contact Society will take its Purple Ribbon campaign against violence against women to Lake City Secondary school’s campuses on Friday, Dec. 6.
Working in collaboration with School District 27 counsellors and the school’s leadership students the society will deliver a message on violence against women, Willsie said.
“It will be heard by about 300 students at the schools,” Willsie says.