We understand that trauma is an ongoing condition for many women who have experienced abuse. We at the YWCA would like to caution you when clinking on links within this article, as many cover sensitive topics that could be triggering.
Every October, YWCA’s across the country participate in Week without Violence, a national week of violence prevention. This year, YWCA Metro Vancouver will shine a light on the prevalence of sexual assault in Canada and highlight ways we can continue to improve the systematic response to women who have experienced sexual abuse. The first step in combatting sexual violence is to believe women when they come forward.
Sexual assault takes many forms – sexual harassment in the workplace, catcalling, unwanted touching, sharing photos of someone online or rape. In many cases, women know the abuser and might be in a relationship with them. What all of these have in common is that the abuser attacks women with a total disregard for consent.
The aftermath of sexualized violence continues long after the abuse stops. Women might fear for their safety and experience physical and mental health challenges. For many of the women we work with, abuse has negatively impacted every aspect of their lives. It has forced them and their children out of their homes and they struggle to find a safe, affordable place to live. Their financial security is affected and they worry about how they will care for their children. It becomes hard to maintain a job when basic needs like food and shelter are threatened.
The YWCA Metro Vancouver runs programs that address these interrelated challenges. We provide safe, affordable housing for women leaving abuse and complimentary services such as legal education, violence prevention and children who witness abuse programs for women and families. Once they are ready, women can access YWCA employment programs that support them in re-entering the workforce.
We are at a pivotal time for women’s rights in the world. High‑profile cases like Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, and most recently Harvey Weinstein, have shown that even the most powerful women will be challenged when it comes to reporting sexual assault. But they are coming forward and we must believe them. We must also hold abusers accountable for their actions and advocate for systemic reforms that provide holistic support for women. Dismantling the Barriers, a YWCA project in partnership with West Coast Leaf, aims to do just that. We are asking women who have experienced sexual assault to share their experiences with the justice system. These anonymous contributions will help us to develop systemic recommendations that will make it easier for women to come forward and report sexual assault.
During Week without Violence campaign, we will share information about sexual assault in Canada and highlight ways you can take a stand. Please help us spread the word by following the YWCA blog or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.
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