Victim Services Toronto (VST) crisis counsellors and case coordinators assisted 14,593 victims and survivors of gender-based violence last year.
Bonnie Levine, VST director, made the disclosure at an event at police headquarters on December 6 to observe the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada (NDRAVWC).
“We helped people who experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or criminal harassment, human trafficking, internet-luring, and hate crimes, to name a few,” she said. “While the majority of the people we helped were women and girls, the crimes were no less harmful, no less devastating and no less stigmatizing when they were experienced by men, boys, transgender and non-binary people.”
Levine said VST sees, first-hand, the psychological and emotional scars of trauma that last years, decades and, sometimes, forever.
“And because we see the heartbreaking effects, we also have a responsibility to prevent and address gender-based violence,” she added. “In fact, we believe that we all have a responsibility to address gender-based violence and any form of violence that is born out of hatred.”
Established in 1991 by Canada’s Parliament, the NDRAVWC marks the anniversary of the 1989 homicides of 14 young women at L’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal.
They were murdered simply because they were women.
Deputy Chief Mike Federico pledged that women subjected to domestic violence in the city have the full support of the Service.
“We are here today, not only to just reflect,” he said. “We are here to take action. We are here because we care and want to make a difference.”
Each of the 17 police Divisions across the city have a staff member dedicated to domestic violence and Detective Anne-Marie Tupling is the Service’s domestic violence coordinator.
“This is a time when we, as a community, can reflect on violence against women in our society,” she said. “It is simply not enough to remember victims of crime. We must take action to reduce violence against women. Domestic violence is a reality and it affects many families in our community. It is not limited by marital status, sexual orientation, religion, age or social status. It affects everyone in our society.”
Constable Danielle Bottineau said LBGTQ community members suffer widespread abuse and discrimination.
“The violence that women in our communities face, every day concerns me greatly,” she said.
The Service’s LBGTQ liaison officer said transgender women are singled out and abused because of their transgender identity.
“It is important to recognize and acknowledge one important fact. Trans women are women,” she noted. “…All forms of gender-based violence against all women must end. This includes our trans women community members. They should be able to go about their daily lives without having to look over their shoulders constantly.”
Dada Gasirabo, the director of the Centres des Femmes, attended the event.
“Please make violence against women your business,” she pleaded.
A moment of silence was observed for Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji who died last week.
Also, a special tribute was paid to all women who have been living with, or may have died as a result of, gender-based violence.
The Service’s Divisional Policing Support Unit has received a grant from the Ministry of Community & Social Services to host a one-day seminar on domestic violence and its impact on families.
“The purpose of this conference is to bring together the appropriate social agencies and the Francophone community,” said Tupling. “A portion of victims of domestic violence belong to the French-speaking community. Many are newcomers and they are not aware of the services that are available if they are in an abusive relationship.”
The event, in March 2017, will be open to the public.