Gillian’s Place starts conversation about gender-based violence in rural communities

Just ahead of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, Gillian’s Place is looking to get the conversation started in Lincoln.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence begins on Nov. 15, and is a campaign started in 1991 to speak up on gender-based violence.

In rural areas like Lincoln, Graeme Dargavel, director of development and communications at Gillian’s Place, said victims face disproportionately high levels of violence.

“They also often experience disproportionate barriers to accessing vital services that change and save lives,” he said. “So, it's so important that we not only ramp up our community education, violence prevention around intimate partner violence, especially now that it's been declared an epidemic … we've continued to (see) an increase of femicide, and sadly, in rural areas, the risk of lethality is even greater.”

The issue has become even more prevalent post-pandemic, as in 2022 alone there were 5,160 intimate partner violence calls for service to Niagara Regional Police Service, and 10,383 crisis calls made to Gillian’s Place.

Throughout the month of October, Dargavel and Gillian’s Place CEO Nicole Regehr visited municipalities across North and West Niagara to talk about femicide, with the region, Lincoln, West Lincoln, Grimsby, Thorold, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls all declaring it an epidemic.

In response to all of this, the Lincoln Pelham Public Library is hosting an information session of sorts in collaboration with Gillian’s Place called “understanding gender-based violence in Niagara.”

Taking place on at the Rittenhouse Branch in Vineland on Nov. 23, from 6:30 to 7:30p.m., the session is free to attend. The library asks attendees to pre-register on

The session will be hosted by Gillian’s Place’s community engagement coordinator Amanda Di Zio, who will speak about the organization and its work to end gender-based violence.

The conversation in Lincoln is even more timely as a femicide that occurred in the town in October has continued to rock the community.

Dargavel said Di Zio’s session will focus on teaching about services that are available, and how to recognize signs abuse both for yourself and for loved ones.

“This past year was the first year that we launched our Allied Agency program that provides training,” he said. “It’s (about) gender-based violence, but more detailed, much more just beyond the basics, gender-based violence and serving our community, how to be an effective ally … and we took a real focus on safety planning (and violence prevention) as well.”

Kelly Spence, communications and outreach coordinator for the library, said it’s important for the library to facilitate these conversations and give residents the tools they may need.

“It's really about education,” she said. “We know that gender-based violence is on the rise, particularly in rural areas, including here in Niagara. Particularly with recent events … we’re going to make sure that we're having those dialogues, and giving people information and tools to know about the services available and what some of the warning signs may be.

Abby Green, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News