AMHERST – It was 23 years ago yesterday 14 women were killed by Marc Lepine at l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal. Men and women gathered Thursday in Amherst, at First Baptist Church, for “a celebration of remembrance” – a candlelight vigil on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Terry Cove, the executive director of Autumn House, delivered a message during the ceremony. She told the modest-sized group domestic abuse rose substantially in the years preceding 2010. She said 89 women were killed in Canada last year by someone close to them. And she challenged each person in the church to ask themselves what they can personally do to address violence.
Some of the societal steps she mentioned included teaching health conflict resolution to youngsters and speaking out against media messages that promote violence or images of women as sexual subservients.
It was after the vigil, though, in one-on-one conversation, that she gave insight into what she’d been thinking about during the service’s moment of silence. She’d been thinking about the women in our community – whose circumstances she can’t reveal because of confidentiality – who have suffered or are suffering at the hands of their partners.
“It’s everybody’s problem,” said Ruth Currie, who, along with Christina Cameron, organized the vigil.
She works with New Directions, a program for men that’s affiliated with Autumn House. The program works with men who have used abusive behaviours and want to change, according to Currie. She said the men she helps experience a lot of shame coming forward. It takes courage, she said.
Violence harms relationships and children. It even has a financial impact, hurting productivity, Currie said. She described the people in these circumstances as disadvantaged because they don’t get to experience healthy, safe relationships.
“Where there’s violence, there’s fear,” she said.
Currie offered a call to action: each of us can help; we can reach out to someone experiencing violence, or encourage someone using violence to seek a different path.