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April 26, 2007

By Sarah Nelson  (Staff Writer - The Now EMC)

On December 6th, 1989, a man named Marc Lepine shot and killed 14 women and wounded several others at l-Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. This year on the 19th anniversary of what has come to be called the Montreal Massacre, the Ottawa Baha'i Center hosted a talk on violence against women, the problems that still exist, patterns to look for and what needs to be done.

The first speaker was Helene Boucher, who works for the Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre on the issue of violence against women, and also at a shelter for abused women in Ottawa. "I am concentrating tonight on women being abused by men," she said. Because her area of expertise is in women's issues and because the evening was held in remembrance of violence directed toward women because they were women, Boucher said she would stick to issues of abused women and not go into depth on the subject of abuse towards men.
The Now EMC article photo
Attendess to a panel discussion on violence against women post together in Vanier last week. - Photo by Sarah Nelson

The statistics are striking. Since 1995, more than 160 women have been killed in Ontario by their partners - and more than 21 children. In 2008, in Ontario, 13 women had been killed by their partners by the time the numbers were compiled in October. And these are only the women who are killed by their partners - many more have suffered other types of violence at the hands of other people in their lives.

Violence is usually perpetrated by someone familiar to the victim, yet "we're telling people, 'be careful of strangers'. Sometimes i's not the strangers that are the most dangerous."

Helene Boucher (Western Ottawa Community Resource Center)

"Abuse is a pattern," she said, "It's a power/control issue." Women often come into her office and insist that their abusive partners don't mean to yell, or to hit them. "Of course they don't," said Boucher. The intention is not to hit or to yell - the intention is to gain power and control. There's nothing wrong with power, said Boucher, "if we attach the responsibility to it."

"The responsibility of abuse is one hundred percent on the abuser", she said emphatically. Many abused women feel that it is their fault, but this is part of the cycle of abuse.

Boucher also touched on the signs of abuse. One is that the abuser denies responsiblity for what is going on, or transfers responsibility to the abused. Another is jealousy, which amounts to a lack of trust. A third sign is isolation, or keeping the abused apart from friends and family, inducing a dependency on the abuser for emotional, and often, financial support.

One thing that Boucher works on with the women she supports is safety planning. "If she wants to leave, where can she go?" she asked. It's important for someone suffering abuse to have an escape route, should they decide to leave.

"It's time end the power struggle," said an impassioned Boucher. "We can make a difference."

The second speaker of the evening was David Andrews, a member of the Baha'i community who gave a bit of background on the Baha'i faith and its approach to equality between men and women. One of the ideas central to the Baha'i is that men and women are equals and should be treated as such. He spoke of the early women of Islam and the work they did to unite people under the Islamic faith, and cited Ghandi as a "a good example of the power of peace."

Violence against women is an ongoing issue, however. "I don't think that the issue of violence against women is going to go away," said Andrews. "If we look in the larger context of violence, we still live in a very violent planet."

Everyone present agreed that raising awareness is one of the most important things that people can do, to help end the  cycle of violence against women..

Printed in The Now EMC Ottawa-East - Friday, December 19, 2008

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