The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Nov. 25, reminds governments and individuals alike that we have important work to do to advance the safety of vulnerable women – in their homes, on the street and in their daily lives.
On that day, from 5 p.m. to 11:59 p.m., the B.C. legislature will be illuminated orange in honour of the internationally recognized 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which begins Nov. 25 and ends Dec. 10.
Victims of violent crime must have the services and supports they need to help them escape from violent situations and recover from their impacts. Our government is examining how best to increase supports for women who experience domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes.
A key area of focus is to engage with British Columbians in preventing and stemming victimization of women and girls. An important resource to this end is the #SaySomething campaign to raise awareness on the issue of sexual violence. The campaign engages young adults and aims to change attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate sexual violence and educate individuals on how to take action.
B.C.’s 2017 #SaySomething campaign will run from Nov. 24 to Dec. 21 on Facebook and Instagram, as well as mobile media, allowing British Columbians to share campaign videos and speak out on this important issue.
#SaySomething goes beyond providing material useful to victims of sexual assault and intimate-partner violence. It has information for all of us to keep in mind — to help us recognize when people in our lives need help, and how to respond appropriately and effectively, in ways that can help to enhance their safety immediately. Online, www.saysomethingbc.ca provides info and resources for victims, service providers, and bystanders who want to help.
We’re also looking at how we allocate funding. Each year, the Province provides over $70 million for services to support victims of crime, including $16.5 million for violence against women programs and $32 million for transition-house services.
In British Columbia, we have many long-established organizations dedicated to promoting women’s safety, helping survivors, and working to ensure their perpetrators are held to account. In November 2017, my ministry announced opportunities for groups like these to apply for grants from civil forfeiture proceeds.
Funding is currently available for projects that aim to prevent and respond to violence against women, including projects focused on domestic violence and sexual assault; human trafficking; sexual exploitation; vulnerable women in the sex trade; enhancing domestic violence units; and supporting child and youth advocacy centres.
While these one-time-only grants support a lot of good work, I recognize that many service providers for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and other violent crimes have experienced challenges meeting local demand. My ministry is exploring options for strategic investments that will address these demands and help strengthen the services and supports currently provided.
But you don’t have to be involved with one of these important organizations or projects to make a difference. Consider this: in 2014, one of every five Canadian sex assault victims who reported to police were sexually assaulted by an intimate partner – and in B.C., an average of 90 people per day seek assistance from a counselling or outreach program for violence against women. These people are our neighbours, relatives and close friends.
Please take time to learn how to reach out in an appropriate way when the need arises. Your efforts may help to better, or even save, a life. Visit the #SaySomething website – and if you need help immediately, call VictimLinkBC at any time for toll-free access to confidential, multilingual help and information: 1-800-563-0808.