Fraser Valley – Although it is 2017 and many may think that violence against women and children is not as prevalent as it has been in the past the reality is that even in the Fraser Valley it is prevalent and has high social and economic costs to us all.
In the past 3 1/2 years as Executive Director of Ann Davis Transition Society and director of the BC Society of Transition Houses I have had a front line view of this deeply troubling social problem. Some of the numbers in BC:
- Every year in BC more than 13,000 people seek police assistance to stop violence at the hands of current or former spouse or dating partners.
- Every year more than 30,000 women and children are referred to counselling and outreach programs as a result of their experience of violence
- Every year more than 18,000 women and children access transition and safe houses to escape violence
- In just one day in 2013, 71 women in BC were turned away from Transition Houses. At Ann Davis Transition House we had to turn away 231 women and 129 children in the past 11 months.
- The cost of violence against women is estimated to be 7.4 billion per year in Canada (Zang et al. 2012)
Housing is a crucial issue for women and children experiencing violence. Timely access to safe, secure and affordable housing is a needed component enabling a woman to leave a violent partner and to prevent homelessness. Our society expects women to leave violence but they are in danger if they are not able to access safe, affordable housing in a timely manner. The facts are that they face the real risks of homelessness and further violence if they return to the abusive partner. The limited number of safe beds for women and children leave women and children in our communities homeless, at risk of homelessness, couch-surfing, living in vehicles or other unsafe or substandard accommodation or returning to the abuser. The current situation of highly unaffordable housing has a serious ripple effect. Transition houses are keeping women and children much longer than ever before, there is no room in the houses at many times, this is keeping women in children in danger in violent situations.
Patti MacAhonic, Executive Director of Ann Davis Transition Services strongly encourages us to work together on this International Women’s Day 2017, saying, “let’s work together to end violence against women and children by advocating for the most vulnerable among us. We need government to invest in violence against women support services, affordable housing, stronger criminal justice responses, income assistance and $10 a day childcare, this would help in alleviating and offset what this pervasive social problem already costs BC, and to recognize that violence against women and children is our shared responsibility.