Her life unravelled bit by bit.
She had been sexually assaulted by the very person whose life she tried to share. He stole from her and tried to drain her bank account. She felt manipulated, threatened and afraid. It took her a long time to find the courage to ask for help. She let her employer know that she needed support. But in response her employer demanded that she show up at work happy. For her, it was impossible. She was let go after more than three years on the job.
Today is International Women’s Day. Thousands of B.C. women will start their day happy, cared for by their families and full of ambition. So many others will face oppression, discrimination, poverty and violence.
Every week in our province, there are an estimated 1,000 physical or sexual assaults against women. For Indigenous women and girls, gender-diverse people and those with disabilities, the incidents of violence are even greater. These women are our neighbours, friends, people we see in the grocery store and faces in a crowd.
This week, I was so proud to be in the B.C. legislature, alongside the Minister of Labour, Harry Bains, to introduce changes to the Employment Standards Act that provide paid leave for people who have faced domestic or sexual violence. This means that someone facing this type of violence knows they can have the space and time to go to medical appointments, counselling and make the necessary changes to ensure they and their children are safe. For many, losing even a day’s wages traps them in an unsafe relationship and puts their safety in jeopardy.
We all recognize the painful challenge for people who are trying to keep working when their life has been shattered. Often, their lives will never be the same. Thousands of businesses, communities, advocacy groups and individual British Columbians have come forward with their support for paid leave.
But together, we can provide the supports for people to rebuild their lives when they need it the most. If it’s possible to help one person move forward, then we have made a difference.