Violence Against Women

Violence.  Violence against women, violence against men, violence against children, violence against animals.  Violence destroys.  But what is the difference between abuse and violence?  Abuse is violence taken to the extreme.  Both are evil.

Now you might ask, why is a page like this appearing on a quiltmaker’s website?  And the answer is two-fold.  One, I have had the experience of Intimate Partner Violence or Domestic Violence as many refer to it for a period of many years before I finally and sadly could no longer accept it.  And two, because of my work in textiles and my connection to my local women’s shelter in the town of Orangeville, I tried to think of a way that I could bring a visual awareness to this very serious and often tragic issue that many do not know about.   People read about the extremes of it, those who in the end are killed because of it but the day to day experience of living with abuse is something few people really understand.  It isn’t their experience.  But it has been mine.

How could I put a ‘face’ to Violence against Women so that those who have never experienced it could have a sense of it looking at my textile work.  For those who have experienced it, I hope that my work may connect with their experiences in some way.  Violence is cruelty, it is brutality, it is destructive and can be life threatening and it is underlying society today in a very tragic way.  Cities, towns, municipalities are now declaring Intimate Partner Violence an epidemic. We read with horror the killing of a woman by a male partner, the killing of their children, then the perpetrator kills himself.  It devastates a community; it devastates families, friends.  It makes the news.

What doesn’t make the news is the huge number of women, including Native Indigenous women in Canada who experience living with Intimate Partner Violence on a daily basis and the impact this has on victims of abuse.  The devastating psychological effects on the minds of women and girls, on children caught up in an abusive familial relationship, these effects last a lifetime; the devastating physical effects abuse has on victim’s bodies when they are hit, some permanently injured for life.  And then there is the devastating financial aftermath that many victims never recover from.   Gender Based Violence is listed by the World Health Organization as a major public health concern which affects millions of people, women, children and some men as well and which can result in immediate and long-lasting health, social and economic consequences.   Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) impacts people of all ages, socioeconmic, racial, educational, ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. 

There are many stories to tell but unfortunately admitting to Intimate Partner Violence is not something many women are able to do publicly.  It is a personal matter.  Until it is not.  Until a victim says enough is enough.  But talking about it is painful.  It brings to the foreground a sense of failure, a feeling of deep hurt of having someone you have loved and trusted turn on you and treat you so cruelly.  It is hard to admit to Intimate Partner Violence.  No matter the age of the victim.  And being a victim and feeling or acting like a victim is another matter, a very serious one at that. It impacts on a person forever.

Take the case of an eighty-three year old woman who experienced Intimate Partner Abuse for twenty-one years of a relatively long-term marriage.  althought not consistent until some years later, the threat of abuse was always there underlying the marital relationship in which she was slandered extensively by her husband, verbally abused, physically assaulted and financially abused.  After her last assault, which left her with permanent injuries to her head and neck, she again found herself the intense focus of her husband’s disrespect, his hatred and anger..  It threatened her.  She called the police.  And she was heartbroken.  When the police came to her home they took an audio statement from her and removed the angry husband from the home.  And then, believe it or not, the police lost the wife’s audio statement.  Did the police notify her of this?  Did they ask to come back and take another statement?  No.  Nor did the Crown Attorney, who was representing her notify her that her audio statement was lost?  No.  The Crown simply dismissed the charge of assault without informing the victim, the wife, for lack of police evidence.  The angry and abusive husband got off.    As he had done once before with his former wife.  You see how our court and police system, as they are now, failed this elderly woman who is now left unprotected.  She was a victim of abuse and she was a victim of our present judicial system.  It’s why many women remain in abusive relationships.

A younger woman, a palliative care doctor, had married a man who became violent with her and she separated from him for her own safety and that of their young daughter.  She then appealed directly to the court asking a male judge to give her complete custody of her daughter as her former husband had a history of lying, of mental instability and cruelty.  She gave enough evidence for the judge to understand her frantic plea for help to the court.  And what did the male judge do?  He disregarded her, he disregarded her pleas.  He openly dismissed them and gave the father visitation rights.  And so, one day not long after that, the father came to pick their daughter up at his former wife’s home to take their young daughter on a walk on the Niagara Escarpment near Milton, Ontario.  The child never returned home.  She and her father’s bodies were both found at the base of a high cliff, dead.  I wonder how this male judge felt after learning of the death of this child named Keira.  Ignoring a frantic mother’s pleas and putting them down as some overly dramatic appeal and which led to the death of her child.  Now there is Keira’s Law, formulated by Keira’s mother, the doctor, who in her grief over the death of her beloved child managed to have a law passed in parliament, Keira’s Law now requires and ensures that judges require education on domestic violence and coercive control in Intimate Partner Violence and family relationships.  Before Keira’s Law, judges in family law courts were not required to be trained or educated about Domestic Violence even though they passed critical decisions in court which affected the lives of victims of Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence. Including their children.

Another judge in family court made a decision which allowed a father visitation rights.  The mother and children were living temporarily in the local women’s shelter.  The home in which he lived happened to be down the road from where my home is located in the country.  The house was not visible to the highway which bordered his property nor the line on which it was located.  And so, a week-end visitation was arranged as the judge allowed.  When the mother came to pick up her four children, they were not available to her.  Shot and killed in their beds, each of the children were dead.  The mother was then killed, as well, by the father, her former husband.  And then he killed himself.  Tragedies like this happen.

Let us hope that with education into Intimate Partner Violence and a much-needed increase in respect towards women, in what is still a patriarchal judicial system, that those who forumulate the laws and those who operate within our judicial system may become more aware, better educated and learn about the reality of Domestic Violence, Violence Against Women, Intimate Partner Violence.  And may they then make decisions that will protect victims of this abuse.

Luke’s Place, in Oshawa, Ontario, an award-winning non-profit organization solely devoted to improving the safety and experience of women and their children as they proceed through the family law process after fleeing an abusive relatinship note in this year 2024 that when a woman is  leaving an abusive marriage or relationship and files for a separation or divorce she will find the attitude of those who work in the court system of Ontario  to be that of  a ‘he said/she said’  nature which is a still prevalent today.  The attitude being that women overly dramatize events of abuse and violence.  They are not respected in the judicial system of today.  It is still a man’s world in regard to Violence Against Women in the court system today, unfortunately.  Hopefully this will change.

What does Intimate Partner Violence do to the women involved in this type of relationship?  When they are young they often do not have the life skills or experience or confidence in themselves by which to survive this experience.  They are slowly hurt and damaged psychologically and as are victims of  any age, they are vulnerable .  This damage is soul-destroying.  Male perpetrators of abuse are looking to control women, often they are  narcissists who can appear charming to the general public, their charisma attracting people to them.  This is how they draw women in with  their charm and by making them feel special.  And then, once the relationship is established, a gradual change takes place.  Demanding to be the centre of attention, demanding of of other things, the male perpetrator begins to slowly undermine the confidence of his female partner, making her feel anxious towards him.  She must please him, always.  And the control begins, Coercive Control which can lead to physical abuse. Behind closed doors , it is often a very different story.

When a woman calls the police on a husband or partner who is violently abusive, angry to the point of hatred, when she flees this relationship and enters a womens shelter, this is when the judicial system begins to abuse her, as well.  How can she afford legal advice or a lawyer having left a relationship that in many cases where she was financially dependent upon the abuser.  She must hire a lawyer to protect her, to defend her rights.  And where is she to get the money for this?  Abuse doesn’t end when the relationship ends.  The judicial system sees to that.

The following is my letter to the Orangeville Citizen in regard to November’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a portion thereof:

“Victims are often asked “why did you stay, why did you put up with it, why didn’t you just leave?” And the answer to that is complex.  Speaking personally of my own experience I can say that just because you experience Intimate Partner Violence you do not always stop loving the person who is perpetrating it.  And then, admitting to yourself before you admit to others that this is what you are living with can also be very difficult.  And very painful.  When abuse begins, while it’s shocking and very unsettling, sometimes we make excuses for the person abusing us.  Maybe they are experiencing stress themselves, job related perhaps, retirement from a job which they felt passionate about, maybe they are mentally unwell for some reason, there are any number of excuses we can put to the beginning of abuse.  But then when it goes on and becomes more intense, the anger always there, focused upon us, threatening us, there comes despair.  Calling the police can mean the victim will be threatened even more.   Victims are broken, in mind, in body, in spirit.   It is time our Federal and Provincial governments stepped forth to create new laws in the protection of women who experience gender-based violence by men and the laws upon which the police can act to arrest the perpetrators of these crimes.  Sadly, it will not eliminate it”.

Some resources:  (Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario)    (femicide reporting in Ontario)