A guest blog written by Rosemarie Gjerek, Director of Counselling & Community Health, Klinic Community Health
Early Saturday morning finds me, as usual, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. Tucked away on page 21 of a local paper was the headline: Study shows ‘staggering’ results of domestic violence and above the headline in smaller font: Every four days a woman is killed by a family member. The article was referring to a newly released report from the Chief Public Health Officer focussing on the incidence of family-related violence in Canada; a report that comes with the warning that the contents might be difficult and disturbing to read. He is right: it is deeply, deeply disturbing.
The report states “Women, children, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning are at greater risk of experiencing family violence and its impacts. Women are more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner and more likely to experience sexual abuse, more chronic and severe forms of intimate partner violence, particularly forms that include threats and force to gain control. Women are also more likely to experience health impacts.”
These health impacts include mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder; physical health concerns as well as chronic diseases and conditions, such as cancer and arthritis and finally a shorter life expectancy. The statistics are indeed staggering- for the full report, you can visit:
I sit there with my morning coffee and paper contemplating the last few days and recent events that have happened in my city. Winnipeg, along with communities around the globe, just held its annual Take Back the Night March this past Thursday. While I wasn’t able to attend this march, I do recall my first circa 1993 and remember that feeling of community, of power and strength, as we marched through downtown streets chanting, “What do we need? Safe Streets! When do we need them? NOW!”
At Klinic, members of our team are still at the forefront of this annual event, and I am proud to be a part of an organization that supports working together with so many partners and community members to make our communities safer.
Twenty-five years later, we’re still marching: this time with the understanding that the violence we want to raise awareness of takes many forms – physical, sexual and emotional, and impacts so many lives – in our streets, in our homes, and in our relationships. This report, along with others, helps provide important information on the rate of which violence is happening, and I hope that it will help give voice to those who may not be able to tell their own stories.
Friday saw the relaunch of the Buying Sex is Not a Sport Campaign (an event that I was able to attend) to coincide with the NHL Heritage Classic. This campaign seeks to raise understanding and awareness of the issue of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
It happens every day: people, mainly women, are trafficked in our communities, across this and other provinces and into the United States. Their ability to choose, their consent and their freedom is taken away. Sometimes this occurs alongside major sporting events but please understand a special event is not required. What truly matters more in the end, is not when it happened, but that it is happening.
It is hard not to feel a bit despondent. It is hard to see that, although violence is a national public health issue, it only warrants a story on page 21. It is hard to see the words “every four days, a woman is killed by a family member” in small print.
What isn’t hard is being part of the larger collective effort to raise awareness and understanding of the impact of violence on people’s lives, to offer support, resources and advocacy, to challenge, to engage and to not ignore these statistics because each and every statistic is an individual. Sometimes the individual is us, sometimes it’s someone we know, sometimes it’s a stranger, but ultimately violence against any individual hurts us all. So let’s continue to raise our voices and collective outrage, change the world and bring that report to the front page where it belongs.