Talking with young women about abuse

November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month

Waterloo Region – Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region is taking a different approach to Woman Abuse Awareness Month (WAAM) this year. The death of a local woman at the hands of her husband just before WAAM last November shook Mary Zilney, the agency’s CEO. “I wondered if she knew about us and if she didn’t if she would have been alive if she had. I resolved that we needed to know better to do better.” Zilney recruited a group of interested volunteers at the agency’s flagship WAAM event that features a guest speaker. That process led to an awareness campaign over November designed to reach women 18 – 25 years old.

The flagship event is an educational evening on November 8 at the Armenian Centre (15 International Drive, Cambridge) that features guest speaker Lavon Morris-Grant (the event starts at 5 p.m. with Lavon speaking at 7 p.m.) She is a dynamic, nationally and internationally recognized speaker on topics related to violence against women, the impact of trauma on children, a best-selling author, consultant and entrepreneur. By sharing her story, Morris-Grant launches an effort to talk openly about woman abuse. (Note: The event is already at capacity)

Zilney had research conducted on awareness of Women’s Crisis Services and the unique role it plays in providing shelter and other services to women experiencing abusive relationships. Women ages 18 – 24 were least likely to know about the agency, its shelter and services despite the fact that 25% of the women they helped in 2011 were in that same age group. So this November, the agency is talking about abuse with young women.

The campaign being rolled out over the month includes:

  • A video with an original script that dramatizes a typical situation showing signs of abuse
  • An original song by Laurier student Danielle Robert that speaks to how a seemingly ideal relationship can turn abusive (also to be released as a video)
  • A photovoice project where young women took photos and then describe how they symbolize the signs of abuse
  • Active online communities on the agency’s Facebook page and through its presence on Twitter
  • Coasters to be used in participating bars and restaurants
  • Print and radio ads in campus media in Waterloo Region
  • An online resource at:

“Our goal,” Zilney said, “is to help young women to identify the signs of abuse and to know what to do when they see them in their own relationships or those of other women in their lives. We want them to know that Women’s Crisis Services is available to help them by providing shelter at Haven House in Cambridge, Anselma House in Kitchener or by providing other services such as developing a safety plan.”

To learn more or to arrange an interview with Lavon Morris-Grant or Mary Zilney, contact:

Mary Zilney     519-504-1468 (cell)