Breaking the silence on domestic violence

By Emily Senger

Women around the globe have been celebrating International Women’s Day in some form since its inception in the United States in 1909, and as Thur., Mar. 8 approaches, both male and female critics abound, proclaiming the day has become unnecessary as women’s battles have all been won.

It is true that in the last 100 years women have made tremendous gains. During the span of a century, women have become people. Legally, we have gained the vote, the right to education and control over our bodies. But despite this lengthy list of gains, the tragic murder of 18-year-old SAIT student Stephanie Novak last week— allegedly at the hands of her recent ex-boyfriend 27-year-old Vuong Minh Vu—provides a grim reminder of how far women still have to come before we are truly equal.

Despite women’s equality as citizens, incidents of violence against women like the one that took Novak’s life remain all too common. The results of a Statistics Canada report released in October 2006 speak for themselves.

There were 2178 female spousal homicides in Canada between 1975 and 2004, compared to just 638 male spousal homicides. The report showed that in 2004, twice as many Canadian women were beaten by their partners than men. Women are more likely to be victims of the most severe assaults, including chronic, ongoing assault. Alberta also has the dubious honour of being home to the highest rate of spousal homicide and domestic abuse of all provinces.

The report also delivered another interesting statistic: Though the number of spousal abuse incidents against women across the country is on the decline, the rate of violence inflicted by boyfriends has shown a steady increase since 2000, and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are
the most likely victims of assault.

Eighteen is often a year of big changes. For me it meant leaving my comfort zone—moving out of my parents’ house to a new city, beginning post-secondary education, forging life-long friendships and breaking up with a serious boyfriend. For Novak, her 18th year also brought all of these things, but instead of transitioning into adulthood, her life came to a tragic end Wed., Feb. 28—slain in her Citadel home.

Partner violence can and does affect all kinds of women. Black women, senior women, disabled women, aboriginal women, newly-wedded women, poor women, rich women, lesbians and even young, attractive women like Stephanie Novak.
While naming a specific day as International Women’s Day
will not end violence against
women or tragedies like Novak’s death, it is important to have internationally-recognized days
not only to celebrate how far
women have come, but also to acknowledge how much there is left to do.

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