Tag Archives: violence against women

Violence Against Women Concerns Us All

28 years ago, Canada was shaken by the violent mass murder of 14 young women at École Polytechnique, generating awareness on the ongoing social issue of gender-based violence and misogyny.

Today, we commemorate and honour the lives of everyone who has died from gender-based violence and the intersection of systemic discrimination such as homophobia, poverty, and racism, including discrimination against Indigenous Peoples. This day is also about asking why acts of violence against women are still happening in 2017.

Violence against women continues to be a major tragedy. There has been no significant reduction of the problem, as rates of sexual assaults continue to remain high. Both police-reported and self-reported data indicate that women represent the majority of victims of specific forms of violence such as sexual violence, stalking and intimate partner violence, including intimate partner homicide.

#METOO, the recent social media trend, saw many courageous women sharing their stories, shedding light on a widespread culture that promotes acts of violence against women, in particular, sexual harassment and assault. The prevalence of toxic attitudes and violent acts against women is deeply disturbing but not surprising. It calls for a long overdue reflection on the social and institutional structures that promote these acts, as well as on our own actions.

Too many continue to sanction sexist beliefs and attitudes that dehumanize women and paint them as weak and inferior. These beliefs impact women’s rights and the level of respect they are shown. Society’s view of women has normalized the behaviours and attitudes that promote gender-based violence. Behaviours can take the form of jokes about sexual harassment or rape, meeting the act of catcalling a woman on the street with laughter, or the reaction of insistence and a predatory attitude when a woman says “NO”.

Consider a joke about harassment or consent. Even when a person insists they meant nothing by it, it still promotes a culture of violence and discrimination that has serious and real impact on women. The problem is that joking about consent has become so commonplace, it reinforces the perception that disregarding consent is somehow socially acceptable.

Being aware of the collective impact of these attitudes, and discussing ways to address the situation, not only among women, but among all of us, is an honest first step toward transforming our surroundings and confronting the issue. There is no such thing as an innocent bystander. Acts of gender-based violence concern us all and must be challenged, especially by those who think they have the privilege to ignore them.

To create change, it is essential to recognize that the issue of violence against women knows no frontiers. It happens every day, in our country, in our city, and in our neighbourhood.

Because violence against women concerns everyone, let’s raise awareness and step up to reinforce acts of respect to everyone, but particularly to women and girls!

Article prepared by The Canadian Federation of University Women

Why International Day Against Victim-Blaming Matters

by Allegra Morgado

Today marks the fourth annual International Day Against Victim-Blaming. Since the topic of rape culture has become such a forefront issue in the media and on college campuses in recent years, the issue of victim blaming has been more widely discussed. Although the thought of blaming a victim for an action taken against them may sound ludicrous – the video “If we treat robbery like rape” shows you just how ridiculous it seems in other contexts – almost all sexual assault victims have to deal with it at some point in their lives. It is one of the reasons that the majority of victims never report an assault. So why do we victim blame? What is gained from this practice that is clearly harmful to all victims of sexual assault?

Although there is no concrete answer or reasoning behind victim blaming, there are a lot of different reasons why people do it. In order to figure out the answer we need to talk about three contributing factors – our assumptions of why women get sexually assaulted, how we talk about sexual assault to young people, and why people commit sexual assault. Although it is important to recognize that men are sexually assaulted, because over 80% of sexual assault victims are women, this post will mostly focus on women.

The view of women’s and men’s sexuality is the first thing that needs to change. In an interview about her book The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women on NBC’s “The Today Show”, Jessica Valenti explains that “the ‘purity myth’ is the lie that women’s sexuality has some bearing on who we are and how good we are.” This view is not unique to the United States – all over the world, including in Canada, women are harshly judged on their decisions about their own personal sexuality. This judgement is often ingrained, be it from religion, media, or just cultural norms, and affects how women who are open about their sexuality are viewed. While men are often praised for their “sexual conquests” women have historically been judged and shamed. The connotation behind the word “slut” is one clear example. These views are centuries old and mostly comes from the patriarchal societies that we live in, where women’s rights have only really been a topic of conversation for the past 125 or so years.

When women are constantly judged for their sexuality, people are scared and skeptical about anything that has to do with it. This judgment is where the “what was she wearing?” and “why was she out so late?” questions often stem from. As Dr. Juliana Breines says in her article “Why Do We Blame Victims?” on the University of California, Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center website says “victims threaten our sense that the world is a safe and moral place, where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people”. This is why we try to find a reason to blame the victim; if it is their fault, then those of us who dress in certain ways or take all possible precautions to prevent rape must be safe.

Rape is preventable, but first we have to change the way talk about rape and sexual assault. Although it is beginning to change, for far too long the conversation has been focused around telling women not to get raped, rather than telling men not to rape. When a victim is blamed or we suggest she could have prevented it in some way, we are sending the message that an assailant’s behaviour is in part excusable. There also needs to be a change in the conversation about consent. By changing the statement to “Yes Means Yes” from “No Means No,” we change the requirement for consent to an explicit yes, rather than the absence of a no. Although it may not seem “sexy” to stop during an intimate moment to ask for consent, it is necessary to have open communication and dialogue to ensure that both parties are happily consenting to the activity at hand, and that consent is ongoing. The Ontario government’s new sex-education curriculum, which includes consent based lessons, is a very positive step in that direction.

In order to stop sexual assault, it is essential to continue the conversation about consent and the fight for women to be truly equal. Because as long as there are cases like those of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, there is a need for an International Day Against Victim-Blaming. For more information on the day and what you can do to help out, check out the Facebook event, hosted by SlutWalk, here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1390690721209922/

CFUW appeals to legislators, civil society, and individual citizens to mobilize, unite and act to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls

OTTAWA, 25 November 2014 – Today on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, CFUW joins with our International affiliate, the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), in drawing attention to the ongoing, widespread and systemic culture of violence against women and girls in Canada and around the world.

Together, we call on governments to work with stakeholders, including, justice, health, education and social service sectors to develop, implement and enforce comprehensive and coordinated plans of action to end violence against women and girls.

Violence against women manifests itself in physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence. It occurs in our homes, workplaces, schools and in public places, and can affect women and girls of all ages and background. Trafficking, forced and early child marriage, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation and rape as a weapon of war, and non-state actor torture are all specific forms of violence that disproportionately affect women and girls around the world.

Not only does violence jeopardize the security and wellbeing of women and girls, it also has a large economic impact on survivors and Canada as a whole. Statistics Canada and others have estimated the cost of intimate partner violence and sexual violence at $7.4 and $1.9 billion respectively, including the costs of social services, healthcare, the justice system, and lost productivity.

“Over the last several weeks, Canadians have been reminded again and again that violence against women and sexual harassment are still persistent problems in this country. Even Parliament Hill and our public broadcaster’s offices are not immune”, said Doris Mae Oulton, President of CFUW. “These high profile cases have helped shine a light on the complexities of gender-based violence and have sparked important discussions. But discussions must also lead to action. On any given day in Canada, over 8200 women and children are living in emergency shelters and transition houses to escape violent partners. Annually over 400,000 women and girls report sexually assaults, yet an approximate 90% of assaults go unreported. Nearly 1,200 Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing over the last 30 years. We cannot let this continue to happen.”

President of IFUW, Catherine Bell, stated that: “Up to 70% of women will suffer violence in their lifetimes. Often, alarmingly, it is intimate partners or family members that carry out the attacks with devastating effects. What is more worrying is the extremely low rate of complaint in cases of violence against women, where only 13 -14% of the most serious cases are reported to the police. Many such reports do not result in legal proceedings and conviction. Law enforcement, health professionals, teachers and social workers need to be properly trained in treating and protecting survivors of violence so that girls and women feel safe and empowered to come forward and share their stories.”

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace. CFUW is the largest affiliate of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), the leading girls’ and women’s global organization run by and for women, advocating for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality education and training up to the highest levels.


For more information, please contact: Tara Fischer, Advocacy Coordinator, advocacy@fcfdu.org, 613-234-8252 ext. 106.

University Women Strive to End Violence against Women

Ottawa – June 22, 2014
– In 2013, the CFUW National President Susan Murphy invited Clubs across Canada to participate in a national initiative to support women and girls who are survivors of violence.   CFUW Clubs across the country took up the President’s challenge and over half of the Federation’s 107 Clubs responded with a wide variety of projects.

The initiatives undertaken by CFUW Clubs included community activities such as CFUW Nanaimo’s community-based workshop on how bystanders can intervene entitled Ending the Silence: Strategies for Preventing Abuse. Members ofCFUW Corner Brook became a community partner in the CAMPUS Project, a study examining the issue of violence against young women on university campuses. CFUW Southport held a candlelight service in honour of the women killed at École Polytechnique. CFUW Dartmouth provided supplies to “Alice Housing” for women and children in second stage housing who are victims of violence.

Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the UN has said that violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread abuses of human rights in our time. It affects one in three women and girls. In this vein, and building on the momentum from last year, CFUW will continue with the National Initiative in 2014/2015 because we believe our ongoing collective efforts can and will help raise public awareness about violence against women and girls, improve support and prevention, and put pressure on all levels of government to take stronger action.

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace.


 For further information, contact:

Robin Jackson, Executive Director, Canadian Federation of University Women, 613-234-8353 ext. 106, executivedirector@fcfdu.org

Canada Needs a National Action Plan on Violence against Women

OTTAWA – December 5, 2013 – On Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) will be commemorating the 14 young women who were senselessly murdered at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989 and calling for stronger federal measures to address gender-based violence.

“As we take pause to reflect on the inequality and beliefs that caused the École Polytechnique tragedy twenty-four years ago, we are reminded that violence continues to be a reality for far too many women and girls across Canada every day”, said Susan Murphy, President of CFUW.

 One in 3 women in Canada will experience some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime.

Not only does violence jeopardize the security and wellbeing of women and girls, it also has a large economic impact on survivors and Canada as a whole. Statistics Canada and others have estimated the cost of intimate partner violence and sexual violence at $7.4 and $1.9 billion respectively, including the costs of social services, healthcare, the justice system, and lost productivity.

“Ending violence against women is priority for CFUW,” said Ms. Murphy. “Our members across the country are working on a diversity of projects to prevent and respond to violence against women in their communities, and at the national level we continue to advocate for more effective responses from government. While there are many worthwhile initiatives current underway in our communities, Canada must adopt a comprehensive and coordinated approach to help address the root causes of gender-based violence. This is why we are calling on all federal political parties to support the creation of a National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls”.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon has called on all member states to develop National Action Plans on Violence Against Women and Girls by the year 2015. Several countries including Australia already have national plans underway. A recent report released by the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses, “The Case for a National Action Plan on Violence against Women”, clearly demonstrates Canada could be doing much more. The Government of Canada however, continues to deny the need.

Each year, the CFUW Fellowships Program also offers two École Polytechnique Commemorative Awards, totaling $12,000, to outstanding graduate students whose research or area of study is related to women.

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace.


For more information, contact: Tara Fischer, Advocacy Coordinator, 613-234.8252 ext. 106 or advocacy@fcfdu.org


Bill C-13 Ignores Gender-Based Violence as a Root Cause of Cyberbullying

Legislation has been introduced via Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, that will criminalize the non-consensual distribution of intimate images online. This bill is delivered to the Canadian public after an onslaught of tragic tales of cyberbullying and violence, particularly amongst the youth population.

While this effort may act as somewhat of a deterrent, as well as provide legal ramifications for cyber bullies, it is certainly not a fix for Canada’s cyber violence problem. The bill ignores  the many root causes of the issue, particularly gender-based violence and sexual harassment.

Cyber ‘bullying’ is very often sexual harassment conducted in an online setting. However, employing the term ‘bully’ instead of ‘sexual perpetrator,’ for example, ignores any gender connotations present in the issue.

Using the term ‘bully’ is also guilty of infantilizing the matter. The word traditionally conjures the image of kids behaving badly. Unfortunately, the experiences of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons, both of which resulted in their self-inflicted deaths, prove that cyberbullying is much more serious and is a real threat to Canadian girls and women. For instance, a 2011 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that boys who are “bullies” are nearly four times as likely to be physically or sexually abusive as adults.

Eyes are on the Government of Canada and how they can improve the online safety of girls and women. The Status of Women Canada (SWC) recently issued a call for proposals for programs and initiatives that will eliminate or reduce cyber bullying and sexual violence. While this is a positive step, the SWC only provides short-term funding and not every community will be supported.

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) and other related organizations on the other handhave been advocating for a National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls. This development would seek to comprehensively address all forms of gender-based violence, including the issue of online gender violence by having the federal, provincial, and municipal governments and stakeholders collaborate to establish long-term, multi-sector, initiatives aimed at preventing cyber harassment of girls and women.

At CFUW’s 2013 Annual General Meeting, members echoed the need for all levels of government to cooperate in finding resolutions to this problem. Other suggestions to the Canadian government from CFUW members were that they raise public awareness on the topic of cyberbullying and violence and conform to the legal sanctions in place; integrate programs on bullying and cyber violence into training and core curriculum for educators and counsellors so that they are able to identify and take steps to resolve it in their institution; and encourage such institutions to offer workshops to parents and caregivers on recognizing cyberbullying and teaching anti-bullying strategies.

CFUW membership also suggested the Canadian government consider and utilize the six recommendations of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights reports on “Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age,” published in 2012.

The six recommendations include the levels of government cooperating with each other and related stakeholders to develop strategies; establishing consistent definitions of cyberbullying and messaging on the issue; conducting long-term research on cyberbullying that will give new insights into its contributing factors as well as new initiatives in combatting it. Unfortunately, Bill C-13 will only address Recommendation #4, which calls on the federal government to work with industry stakeholders in creating strategies to protect children online through removing or blocking inappropriate content.

Current efforts, such as those of the SWC mentioned above, are useful and important to the cause of cyberbullying and violence. To end cyber violence against all girls and women, however, requires an honest and in-depth look at the underlying perceptions, attitudes, and social trends that are creating cyber bullies and developing strategies to confront them.

In a letter to the Minister of Justice and Minister of Status of Women Canada dated December 2, 2013, CFUW raised these concerns and recommendations with the government.

How Much are Women’s Lives Worth? CFUW Dismayed Over Election Proposal to Scrap Gun Registry

OTTAWA, April 20, 2011 – The Canadian Federation of University Women(CFUW) believes that gun control is an important measure to help prevent public violence and in particular, violence against women. Most firearm-related deaths in Canada are caused by rifles or shotguns. These are the guns most used in domestic violence.
The Gun Registry has helped reduce this type of domestic violence and spousal homicide. The number of women murdered with firearms has decreased by 70% since controls on all firearms were first introduced. Women’s groups and front line shelter workers maintain that the interests of all women, rural and urban, are not being served by abolishing the gun registry.
While it has been estimated that the cost to abolish the long gun registry would save between $1.5 and $4 million per year, these costs are dwarfed by those monies incurred as a result of firearm death and injury (estimated at $6.6 billion per year in 1995).
“It would be a backwards step to collapse the gun registry. In fact, we need to be working towards a national strategy that ends violence against women.” said Brenda Wallace, National President of CFUW.

For further information: Robin Jackson, Executive Director cfuwed@rogers.com, 613-234-8252 ext. 102

Founded in 1919, CFUW is a non-partisan, equality-seeking, self-funded organization of close to 10,000 women graduates and students in 112 Clubs across Canada. For more information, see http://www.cfuw.org
The Right to Speak, The Responsibility to Act Le droit de parole – le devoir d”agir

December 6th, Day for Remembrance and Action

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) remembers the 14 lives lost twenty one years ago today.  We mark December 6th each year to remember the young women who were gunned down through senseless violence. We also mark December 6th as a call to action to end violence against women. Canada must not isolate the actions of one deranged individual – it needs to take action on all the factors present in our society that keep women from enjoying the safety and equality of men.

We still live in a country where persistent wage gaps tell women their work is not of equal value to men, where women continue to do two thirds of unpaid work and bear the brunt of poverty. Twenty one years later we are still fighting for our concerns to be taken seriously. As the Government defunds women’s groups who demand women’s equality, December 6 acts as a reminder to revive our commitment to gender equality.

In 2010, women experience domestic abuse, sexual assault on university campuses and the murder and disappearance of more than 600 aboriginal women. To break cycles of poverty and abuse that limit women’s lives, CFUW calls for action to end violence and inequality. Affordable housing, universal childcare, accessible post-secondary education and greater economic equality break down barriers to women’s equality.  This December 6th we remember the lives of the 14 young women who were senselessly murdered at Ecole Polytechnique because they were women. This December 6th we go forward to fight against the inequality and ideas that created the violence twenty one years ago – and the violence that continues to take place against women every day.

Women’s Rights at the Crossroads

Hosted by: Sudan Inter-Agency Reference Group and Inter Pares
Attended by: Robin Jackson, Executive Director and Sam Spady, Advocacy Coordinator, on behalf of CFUW

Two Sudanese Women’s Rights Activists spoke about the challenges of civil society in Sudan, and their commitment to continue working with Sudanese women from the North and South through the upcoming referendum.

Sudan, which has endured over fifty years of intermittent civil wars, will come to an important crossroads this January. As a part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005, Southern Sudan will vote in a January, 2011 referendum to decide if they should become an independent state.

The Sudanese activists, Fahima A. Hashim, Director of the Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre and Zaynab Elsawi, Program Coordinator for the Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP) shared how their organizations have been working to build trust and consensus between Northern and Southern women’s groups and have been able to work together to address the repression they collectively face under the al-Bahsir regime.

Although Hashim and Elsawi were not cynical they were not hopeful for the situation in North Sudan following the referendum. While power imbalances and customary laws in the South work against women’s equality, Southern women’s rights are guaranteed in their constitution, and have been able to participate in negotiations. Women in the North do not have this legal tool to use in their efforts, which poses a more difficult situation.

Hashim and Elsawi work focuses on capacity building for women leaders and to advocate for changes to Sudanese laws. One legal area where they have made progress is rape law.  Confronted with the dire situation in Darfur, they worked to compile information on the sexual violence taking place in the Western region of Sudan, and bring clarity to the laws dealing with rape.

Their goal for the presentation was to raise awareness of both the situation for women created by the al-Bashir regime, and to show that there is a continuum of resistance from Sudanese women who are organizing and working to fight for their rights.

The discussion was both worrying and inspiring.  Northern and Southern Sudanese women, who have witnessed decades of civil war and conflict, have been able to build solidarity and a strong network to fight for equality and peace. In the face of a repressive government and violence they have continued their work bravely and patiently. There is a lot we can learn here in Canada from their commitment, strength and tenacity.