Words mean nothing without action against intimate partner violence: women's centre

THUNDER BAY — Declaring intimate partner violence an epidemic province-wide only works if there are actual solutions to the problem.

The executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Women's Centre does applaud the unanimous support at Queen’s Park on April 10 of Bill 173, named the Intimate Partner Violence Epidemic Act.

However, Gwen O’Reilly said, “we really need to validate the fact that so many survivors have come forward and have not been able to access justice or have not been believed.

"We need people to understand that they are not at fault, and if they did not get treated well when they disclosed violence, then that was inappropriate. That was wrong.”

The provincial government had previously indicated that it would not declare intimate partner violence an epidemic as it is not an infectious or communicable disease.

Locally, city council voted unanimously last September to the epidemic declaration, which was in response to a recommendation from the 2022 Renfrew County coroner’s inquest into the deaths of three women - Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam - at the hands of a former partner.

O’Reilly said the statistics from Thunder Bay Police show that the city has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence, intimate partner, violence and sexual assault, sexual violence in all of Canada per capita.

“We have not been asked by the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board or the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee to speak about the issue,” O’Reilly added. “That was something that was suggested when we presented to council in September. We’re still waiting for that invitation.”

“In the meantime, we have done our own information campaign about actions that can be taken municipally to address the issues of gender-based violence. Everybody's ready to go; we just need the powers that be to knock on our door and ask what's next.”

In terms of some of those actions, O’Reilly mentioned that a lot of them can be tied to transitional housing for women to get out of abusive relationships.

She also pointed to more collaboration among service providers and funding for advocacy organizations to be able to continue their work.

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance regarding intimate partner violence, there are many agencies in Thunder Bay that can help. Beendigen can provide temporary shelter for Indigenous women and their children. As well, Faye Peterson House is a shelter for survivors/women and children who have left or are leaving abusive situations.

Kevin Jeffrey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TBnewswatch.com