By Jenn Watt
Women have been seeking help in greater numbers in Haliburton County over the last year. During the Take Back the Night march in Haliburton on Thursday Denise Morton-Sayles a counsellor at YWCA Haliburton gave a speech to the group assembled in Head Lake Park.
She said from 2017-2018 to 2018-2019 they “saw a 30 per cent increase in the number of women seeking services at the YWCA in Minden.”
There was also a 38 per cent increase in those accessing the Haliburton Emergency Rural SafeSpace also known as HERS.
“Although the statistics are sad and very telling we are here for the women behind the numbers” Morton-Sayles said.
She pointed to provincial stats showing that 30 women were murdered this year. Across Canada 80 women have been killed with 26 per cent of those being Indigenous women (Indigenous people make up about five per cent of the Canadian population).
Rural women are also over-represented in the statistics. The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability reported that as of June 30 22 per cent of women killed in Canada were rural residents. The rural population in Canada is 16 per cent.
“We know that women living in abusive relationships in this area are more isolated from help and support –many living in complete isolation and even transportation-dependent on their abusers” she said.
Take Back the Night organized by the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and Fleming College included emotional speeches from a few attendees who shared their personal stories.
Steph Dart said that she was a survivor of rape and that this was her first time speaking out.
“I never want to be ashamed of that again” she said. “I’m working towards it but I never want anyone here to ever have any kind of shame.”
Another woman in the audience said she saw violence in her home growing up and was in an abusive marriage which has since ended.
“Seeing a group of people here in a small town like Haliburton standing up for this is hopeful” the woman said.
Adrienne Clark said she came to the event as a supporter and said consent was never taught in school when she was growing up in Haliburton. She hoped that things would be better for her young daughter.
Diana Primavesi clinical counsellor Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre said the march was organized to run simultaneously with three others in the region: Cobourg Lindsay and Peterborough and is on the same night as many other marches across the country.
“Today we march in solidarity with all survivors of sexual violence and their allies across Canada and our four counties to call for an end to sexual violence. According to Statistics Canada half of women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence. In addition one in six males and one in two trans people will experience sexual violence sometime in their lifetime” she said.
Victims are most likely to be between the ages of 15 and 24 with half of assaults in this group occurring on dates.
“We are told from the time we are young not to walk alone not to go out after dark to avoid strangers and to avoid dangerous areas of town yet 80 per cent of sexual assaults occur in a residence and 90 per cent of assailants are known to the victim” she said.
Take Back the Night also included the support of YWCA Peterborough-Haliburton and Victim Services Kawartha/Haliburton.
Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre
24-hour Help Line: 1-866-298-7778
Website (includes weekend web chat): kawarthasexualassaultcentre.com
24-hour Support and Crisis Line: 1-800-461-7656 (Or text: 705-991-0110)