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Truro News - 2021-11-25

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‘You’re not alone’

Police

CHELSEY GOULD TRURO NEWS chelsey.gould @saltwire.com

TRURO – Taking the first step towards leaving an abusive relationship is no doubt scary, but victims should know help is available, say support workers. During COVID, there has been a 'shadow pandemic' of more women being stuck at home with their abusers. Meanwhile, some abusers groom and gaslight to make it seem like no one wants to help, with complexities arising as cases proceed through the court system – made especially tough when children are involved. Non-profit organizations such as The Lotus Centre, The Mi'kmaw Family Healing Centre, Third Place Transition House and Colchester Sexual Assault Centre in the Truro area, as well as others throughout Canada, focus on these kinds of clients, many of whose situations have worsened during COVID. “The demand has been intense,” said Third Place executive director Emily Stewart. The end of CERB is expected to increase tensions at home and deter even more women who believe they need to be financially capable to leave an abusive situation. With a focus on meeting operational demand, community awareness campaigns became less of a priority – something the organizations hope to achieve during upcoming days of awareness. “When we do the day-today, we're so busy trying to meet the basic needs, and we are so entrenched in the world of violence against women, and those experiences," said Stewart. “Sometimes, I think, in our own little silos we can think everybody knows as much as we do. But unless you're in it, you don't know.” ‘YOU’RE NOT ALONE’ At least 160 girls and women were murdered last year in Canada, mostly by men, according to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. The rate increases in rural areas with fewer services. One in five murder victims were Indigenous, and at least one woman is killed by her male partner each week. Helplines can provide access to confidential conversations, with no identification required, giving women the ability to talk and make independent choices of what they want to do. “Most women don't know what constitutes abuse, and it's the same with sexual assault … our culture is so desensitized to it,” said Maclachlan. And staff hear the “worst scenarios.” “I know it impacts the staff greatly to take those calls and hear the distress in someone's voice,” said Stewart. “It can be really taxing on the workers,” added Maclachlan. “They’re all people who care, or else they wouldn't be doing what they're doing.” And Stewart and others are there to provide support for women throughout the entire process. “One of my favourite parts of the job is the advocacy piece because I don't back down, ever,” said Mi'kmaw Family Healing Centre (Millbrook) assistant support worker Liz Mackay. "I will stand on that hill … someone needs to do that, and I don’t mind being yelled at. “I love being able to be an advocate for the women that come through this centre because it's empowering to them as well, because they get to see a woman who has a similar history.” The women add it is important to help people know their rights and what supports are available. There was a widespread reaction to a recent Facebook post from Third Place by those learning about domestic violence leave from work of up to three days Nova Scotia. “If we don't talk about it, then people think they're alone ... and the isolation is often built by the abuser as well,” said Mackay. Education is important not only for women but with men, youth, law enforcement entities and others. “As someone who has experienced domestic violence, I think it's really important that we take the shame and the stigma away from women who want to talk about it, because women who've experienced it, don't talk about it, and then other women don't know,” said Maclachlan. “It can happen to anyone.” REMEMBERING AND RAISING AWARENESS The United Nations 16 Days of Activism Against Genderbased Violence starts on Nov. 25, in recognition of that date in 1960 when, the Mirabal sisters – political activists against the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic – were brutally assassinated. It ends on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dec. 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. In 1989, 14 female engineering students, targeted because of their gender, were murdered at l’école Polytechnique de Montreal. An in-person vigil between the four organizations on Dec. 6 starts at Victoria Square with a ceremony and guest speakers, including a prayer from Mi’kmaw elder Ella Paul, Brooke Paul of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Jeanne Sarson and Linda Macdonald of Nova Scotia Feminists Fighting Femicide. Attendees will then make their way to the Lotus Centre gazebo where they will share hopes for women by placing cards on a tree. Masks, social distancing and proof of vaccination are required. People are welcome to visit the gazebo throughout the day. The Mi'kmaw Family Healing Center is commencing with Paint the Town Purple on Nov. 25, by encouraging people to submit pictures of purple creations on Facebook with #Mfhcpurple for a

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