While she believes as a society we have come a long ways, Irene Willsie of the Women’s Contact Society told city council that domestic violence and violence against women is still a very real problem in Williams Lake and the Cariboo region.
“Domestic violence creeps through our community silently, through our neighbourhoods, regardless of economic situations, it’s there,” said Willsie, who spoke to city council Nov. 19 about the upcoming annual Purple Ribbon Campaign, which shines a light on the tough topic.
“It’s a crime. It happens in our homes. It impacts the entire community. It’s about control. It’s not about hate or not getting along with a partner, it’s about control. Offenders control their victims in the home through violence and verbal abuse and restricting access to finances, etc., and control that person outside of the home as well because of fear.”
The Purple Ribbon Campaign acknowledges the pain and suffering that those victimized by family violence live with, and promotes education surrounding the tough topic, Willsie said.
“We cannot expect the courts and the police to fix this problem … as a community need to say we won’t tolerate it, and we do that by educating ourselves on how to respond when we see or hear something that doesn’t feel right.”
Domestic violence where children are in the home is extremely dangerous, she said.
“If you could just imagine that you are a little one, maybe a toddler, and you are constantly fearful. You are scared of your parent, you’re scared of what’s going to happen at any given moment, you go to bed scared. That impacts how a child’s brain develops, how they develop socially and emotionally.”
In correctional institutions, studies have shown that most prisoners are past victims of domestic violence, she said.
“The numbers are startling. It’s almost 100 per cent … of inmates that experienced trauma and violence in their homes growing up. That tells us that we need to intervene and we need to be loud about it, and not silent.”
Five things anyone can do to end violence against women
Listen to women and believe them. It is extremely rare for a woman to make up a story about violence.
Make violence your business. If you believe someone is being abused, ask them. Don’t put yourself in danger, call police.
Raise non-violent children. Talk to your children and help them find non-violent ways of resolving conflict.
Help girls protect themselves. Support girls to develop confidence and strong self-esteem. Talk frankly to them about sex and dating and their right to choose.
Encourage people who commit violence to get help.
The Purple Ribbon Campaign also coincides with the National Day of Remembrance and Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Dec. 6, which this year marks the 30th anniversary of the massacre at Ecolé Polytechnique in Montreal.
Wilsie said the Purple Ribbon Campaign runs from Dec. 1 to 10 and will include posters and purple ribbons, as well as a free film, Polytechnique, being shown Dec. 6 at the Cariboo Community Church on Oliver Street hosted by the Cariboo Friendship Society. Doors open at 5 p.m. with the film starting at 6 p.m.
At the city council meeting last week, Wilsie received the full support of council agree domestic violence is a problem in the community.
Coun. Marnie Brenner noted there is still a stigma surrounding domestic abuse, and encouraged residents to talk about it.
Coun. Scott Nelson, meanwhile, noted that according to the 2018/19 statistics, domestic violence is up 41 per cent in Williams Lake.
“When you dig into the police reports, it becomes very evident that there are some serious issues,” Nelson said, before asking for Wilsie’s support with council’s push to have domestic violence offenders and prolific offenders tracked with GPS monitoring once released from prison.
“We’ve been stuck in a box in an old system that victimizes the victim and all we’re trying to do is to give more tools and make (GPS monitoring) more accessible to the RCMP.”
Willsie’s response to Nelson’s request for support was swift.
“Yes, I can’t say that more clearly.”
Wilsie noted a lot of energy goes into developing safety plan for victims by service providers. GPS monitoring of offenders would make it easier to track offenders, and give victims piece of mind.
“One of the most dangerous times is right after break up … and is when someone is released from custody after serving a sentence,” Willsie said, adding she’d like to see judges use GPS monitoring coupled with court orders to assist with compliance.
“I’ve had women say a piece of paper doesn’t stop a bullet.’ That’s how scared they are.”
Coun. Ivan Bonnel also made a motion at the meeting to proclaim Dec. 1 to 10 in the lakecity Purple Ribbon Campaign Week.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, you can contact the RCMP at 250-392-6211 or the Contact Women’s Society at 250-392-4118.