This month, we recognized the #16Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence with daily information on our social media platforms about gender-based violence and the services we offer to help if you’re experiencing violence, at risk of violence or know someone who is.
Everyone deserves to live without the threat of violence. But the reality faced by many women and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals — from all communities and socio-economic levels — often tells a different story.
At DIVERSEcity, we have developed culturally and trauma-informed gender-based violence programs and services to help women and other survivors find safety and healing.
Here is some information from our #16Days campaign.
Facing violence is an isolating experience
For many, it’s something to keep hidden. Shame or cultural stigma may keep you silent. So can threats. And believing that you have no options may leave you isolated.
You may feel like you’re alone, but you’re not. More than 20,000 women in BC experience violence every year.
What exactly is gender-based violence?
It is any violence directed toward someone due to their gender or gender identity.
It is often physical. It can look like pushing, punching, kicking, slapping, choking, restraining, or even throwing objects. There is no excuse for physical violence — ever. It is also unlawful. But it’s still a reality.
We understand how challenging it can be to seek support. Through our Stopping the Violence Counselling program, we provide supportive counselling through both individualized services and group-based sessions to women of various cultural backgrounds who have experienced family violence, sexual assault or historical abuse, or are at risk of abuse.
Gender-based violence isn’t always physical or obvious
Emotional violence is gender-based violence, too. It happens when someone uses words or non-physical actions to control, scare and isolate you. In an intimate partner relationship, it can look like threats, insults, humiliation, lies, excessive jealousy or controlling behaviour and more. Stalking is also an example.
It may not even happen in person. For some, especially youth, this type of emotional violence can be digital, including cyberstalking on social media.
For newcomers and vulnerable women who may not fully know their rights in Canada, emotional violence can be a way an abuser controls your decisions and limits your freedom.
It’s wrong. DIVERSEcity’s Gender-Based Violence Services can help you better understand this type of abuse and know your rights.
What’s unique about our services is they are based on our culturally safe Roots of Safety service planning approach, which focuses on addressing the harmful or abusive behaviour, not the person. The framework is grounded in intersectionality and anti-oppressive practice.
It’s a collaborative process where we guide you as you take control of the steps in your healing journey.
Financial violence and economic abuse are about control
Did you know that gender-based violence includes financial violence? This happens when someone uses money to control or exploit you.
Women, including racialized women, stay-at-home mothers without their own income and other diverse groups, are disproportionately more vulnerable to this type of economic abuse. You could be denied access to bank accounts, information about your finances or decision-making in how your family manages its money.
It may result in being financially dependent on your partner, leaving you feeling trapped or helpless. If you’re separated, it could turn into financial manipulation such as the withholding of child support payments.
This type of abuse undermines your independence and wellbeing.
Sexual assault is another form of gender-based violence
Thirty per cent of all women in Canada aged 15 or older report experiencing sexual assault at least once. Indigenous women and LGBTQ+ individuals are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted. People with disabilities are twice as likely.
This unwanted sexual contact can happen to anyone. It can take place between people in romantic relationships, within a family, at work, between friends and acquaintances, as well as with strangers. Most survivors know their assailant.
It’s never your fault. But the harm caused to survivors has far-reaching and long-lasting effects on survivors. And they may face systemic challenges in accessing medical care and the legal system.
DIVERSEcity’s new Sexual Violence Support Services helps survivors of sexual violence to access support and resources they need to heal.
Violence is not your fault
Whichever type of violence you may be facing, it’s not because of what you say, what you wear or what you do.
But survivors often feel shame or guilt. They believe that maybe they provoked the situation. Maybe they are to blame. You’re not. Gender-based violence is about power, control and coercion. Never blame yourself and don’t suffer alone.
It happens in any community or culture, at any age, and in any income group
Some people are more at risk, however, including newcomer and BIPOC women.
Immigrant women may be more vulnerable due to language barriers, cultural stigma around discussing violence in their community, lack of a social network, as well as economic dependence on their spouse. If they are sponsored, they become even more reliant as they fear losing their status in Canada. They may also lack knowledge about their rights, including parental rights, and what supports and resources are available to them in Canada.
Adding to this is the challenge of navigating anti-violence services and systems that are not culturally informed or in their language.
“Our counsellors understand that there’s a lot of intersectionality when a client comes to us, including their country of origin, language, immigration status or poverty,” says Golnoosh, a gender-based violence counsellor at DIVERSEcity. “We let them tell us who they are, the prejudices they have experienced back home and in Canada, as well as their accomplishments and what’s important to them.”
Working together is a collaborative process between our counsellors and the clients, empowering them to act and make decisions independently. Our approach is guided by the women themselves; we are there to listen, empathize and ask solutions-focused questions. This provides the women the chance to explore their options and create an empowerment plan with next steps.
DIVERSEcity’s Survivor-Centered Systems of Care Project, funded by WAGE Canada, takes this work to the next level. It empowers and trains survivors to become advocates and lead mainstream systems of care (i.e., in health care, justice and social work) in critical reflection about existing policies and procedures with cultural sensitivity in mind.
And DIVERSEcity’s Stories of Strength program is dedicated to amplifying voices and creating a supportive space for survivors to share their experiences. Our trained Stories of Strength champions go back to their own communities to have “kitchen-table” community dialogue sessions around issues of violence related to women, men, seniors and youth.
Effects of violence
It’s important to note that gender-based violence can affect people differently. In addition to the physical risks and harm, the trauma it causes can manifest in various ways, including anxiety, stress, lack of motivation, hypervigilance, depression, inability to sleep and more.
You may have days where you feel better, and days where you feel worse. The effects can be long lasting and include post-traumatic stress disorder. It is never too late to seek help.
Let’s be good allies
It takes courage for survivors to come forward and share their experiences. Let’s listen. Let’s believe them. Here are five tips on being a good ally:
1. Believe the person coming forward and withhold judgment. Thank them for sharing their story with you and acknowledge how hard it must have been for them to do so.
2. Do not force them to take steps they are not ready to take. But keep the channels of communication open. Tell them that you are there for them no matter what they choose to do.
3. Educate yourself on the signs of abuse such as frequent or unexplained injuries, shifts in personality or mood, depression, withdrawal and self-destructive behaviours. If you see these signs in a friend or loved one, tell them that you are concerned about their safety. Tell them you are there to help
4. Certain sociocultural views can create silence and stigma around violence. Talking about gender-based violence within your own family, friends and community can help lessen the shame.
5. Learn about resources that are available in the community and support them in accessing resources or help.
Gender-based violence is not exclusive to women
2SLGBTQI+ individuals may even experience it at higher rates. Transgender and gender-diverse people in Canada were significantly more likely to having been physically or sexually assaulted at least once since age 15. Statistics show they are also more likely to experience to experience online harassment and unwanted sexual behaviours in public places.
2SLGBTQI+ individuals who have an intersection of characteristics such as being a newcomer or BIPOC, are even more vulnerable to violence.
Children who grow up witnessing abuse in the home face their own trauma. Studies show that kids who witness violence face increased risk of psychiatric disorders, suicide and becoming a victim or abuser themselves.
DIVERSEcity’s PEACE (Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment) program supports children and youth who have witnessed or experienced violence. Our counsellors support children and youth to feel safe, respected, valued and heard, and to reduce their isolation.
Resources are available for you and your children
If you have experienced gender-based violence, support is available for you and your children to live a safe, healthy life.
You may face challenges in accessing culturally safe services in your language, but know that there are people who care and want to help you. You can find them at DIVERSEcity as well as at partner community organizations, shelters, transition houses and more.
Find resources here: https://www.dcrs.ca/resources/domestic-violence-resources-and-support/
Contact DIVERSEcity at 604-547-1202, email@example.com.
In an emergency, call 9-1-1.