News Article: On National Day of Remembrance, anti-violence activist calls on B.C. government to do much more for women

Georgia Straight:
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The spokesperson for Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter has called on the B.C. government to "step up its game" in addressing violence against women.

“In the past year we had to turn away 618 women who were looking for a safe space for themselves and their children," Hilla Kerner said in a statement coinciding with the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Every December 6, Canadians pay respect to 14 female engineering students and staff who were murdered at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 solely because they were women. Another 14 people were injured by the gunman, who separated female students from male students.

Kerner has frequently highlighted how the lack of social supports keeps women in abusive relationships, elevating the risk of them being murdered.

Last year in an interview with the Straight, she said there were five rape-crisis centres in B.C. when there really need to be 50.

At the time, Kerner called on the then premier, Christy Clark, to support a guaranteed annual income because that would enable women to exit prostitution and abusive relationships.

In addition, she urged the province to relax its charge-approval threshold, which she said was the highest in Canada.

Currently, a person can only be charged if there's a substantial likelihood of a conviction and it's deemed to be in the public interest.

Since the NDP government was elected earlier this year, there have been no changes in any of these areas.

“We need a dramatic response to alleviate women’s poverty and we need a serious change in how police, Crown, and judges treat cases of male violence against women," Kerner said.

To mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter released its latest statistics from the front lines over the past year:

According to this data, 582 women were raped by their husbands, boyfriends, or lovers. Another 86 women were raped by a former male partner.

Sixty women reported being sexually assaulted by a male supervisor or coworker. And 297 women said they were sexually assaulted "by someone they knew superficially, often through a social circumstance like a party, mutual friends or someone they had a first or second date with".

Among the remainder, 80 women said they were raped by their fathers and 120 women reported being sexually assaulted or raped by other family members or family friends.

Another 83 women said they were assaulted by male strangers.

“Many women are still victims to rape and sexual assault, often by men who are the closest to them," Kerner declared. "The #MeToo campaign reinforced what we on the front line already know. Men know they will get away with raping women. The criminal justice system has been failing women continuously by its refusal to hold violent men accountable."

Read the story in the Georgia Straight