From the desk of Mary Zilney, CEO Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region

Rather than speak about our agency’s history and the services we provide, I’d like to talk a bit about our theme “Let’s Talk About It” at our most recent Woman Abuse Awareness Event, held on November 8, 2012.

The shelter movement, which was instrumental in highlighting the issue of violence against women, began in the 1970’s. So why is it that 42 years later, we’re still not talking about violence against women? It has become the large elephant in society that we see – yet continue to ignore.

Many people still refer to violence against women as, ‘not very serious’ or a ‘private’ matter. These are attitudes that can and need to be changed. If we turn our minds to the success of the unacceptability of the drinking and driving campaigns that went world wide – we know that continued advocacy and diligence cannot result in near miracles. Can you imagine a similar campaign to end violence against women? It would be remarkable.

In our society, gender inequality continues to be visible in many areas including; politics, religion, media, cultural norms, and the workplace. Both men and women receive many messages—both blatant and covert—that men are more important than women. In this context, it becomes easier for a man to believe that he has the right to be in charge and to control a woman, even if it results in violence. This is not only wrong, it’s against the law.

On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in emergency shelters to escape domestic violence.

Although adults may think “the kids don’t know,” research shows that children see or hear 40 to 80% of domestic violence assaults. Each year in Canada, an estimated 360,000 children are exposed to domestic violence. These children have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes. This alone is reason for action.

How can our society have evolved in so many other areas, technology is a good example, but still view domestic violence as a private matter? Why aren’t we doing a better job collectively to eradicate violence against women so – that the next generation of young people will grow up to be healthy well-adjusted adults? Why aren’t we talking about it? I look to each of you for your insights.

Our community needs to rally together to break the silence. We need to break through the layers and barriers that continue to inhibit open dialogue. Let’s engage with others in these difficult conversations.  I challenge each of you to make a commitment to begin the process – to openly talk about violence against women to 5 individuals who remain ill informed. Let’s create new solutions together in efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate domestic violence in Waterloo Region.