A candlelight vigil was held at Sarnia City Hall, Wednesday Dec. 6, to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
The event, hosted by the Sexual Assault Survivors Centre Sarnia-Lambton, along with a number of community partners, is held annually to mark the anniversary of the 1989 murders of 14 women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal, and raise awareness about the plight to end gender-based violence.
“This year’s theme is Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls,” said the centre’s public education coordinator Trish Vanoosterom. “This theme refers to addressing economic hardship for women, girls and gender diverse people.
“Having limited resources like income or affordable housing, can make people more vulnerable to gendered violence; it can also make it impossible to escape situations of violence.”
Vanoosterom stressed the need for more investment in services.
“Community organizations like shelters and sexual assault centres often work with hidden populations of victims that other organizations do not,” she explained, pointing to racialized survivors of violence, survivors form the 2SLGBTQI community, and those with complex safety and confidential issues, such as victims of human trafficking.
“A strong gender-based violence response plan in Ontario also requires intentional investment in Indigenous organizations supporting women and girls, and gender-diverse people.”
Approximately every 2.5 days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Femicide, or feminicide, is a term for the hate crime of systematically killing women, girls, or females in general because of their gender and/or sex.
Tracey MacDonald, a longtime advocate for ending gender-based violence in Sarnia-Lambton, spoke about her own experience, including the loss of her best friend Jessica Nethery, who was killed by her ex-partner 21 years ago.
“Jessica had one of the most contagious laughs… she was that person you could always count on,” said MacDonald. “She’s now been gone the exact amount of years that she was alive.”
MacDonald, a survivor of generational domestic violence herself, has spent years volunteering and hosting fundraisers to benefit agencies like the SASCSL and Women’s Interval Home. She’s also established the Jessica Nethery Scholarship at Lambton College.
“By spreading awareness and educating our youth, ourselves, and others,” she added, “maybe, we can start an end to this cycle of violence.”
For more information or to access services, visit https://www.sexualassaultsarnia.ca/. A crisis line is available 24/7 at 519-337-3320