Members of Essex County Council declared Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) an epidemic in Windsor and Essex County during its regular meeting on Wednesday, August 16.

Representatives of the Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee Windsor Essex (VAWCCWE) – a cross-sectorial committee comprised of community-based organizations that work together to provide a coordinated response for women experiencing violence and their children – approached County Council about making the declaration.

Making the declaration “allows us to be accountable to recommendations” made through the Renfrew inquest in the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission, Executive Director of Hiatus House, Sylvie Guenther, said adding it also allows the organization to raise awareness about the issue and provide better supports and safety to women who are living with violence.

Since October of 2021, there have been four femicides – the killing of women primarily because they are women – in Windsor and Essex County, and the number of intimate partner violent incidents are not decreasing, Guenther explained. Every six-days in Canada, a woman is murdered.

“We know violence is increasing and we know that women are most at risk when they leave an abusive situation,” Debra Fowler, Neighbours Friends and Families Coordinator, said. “We really have to make sure we are able to support women.”

Leaving is often the most dangerous time for women in an abusive relationship.

She noted there are shelters available, however, often the Welcome Centre and Hiatus House in Windsor are at capacity.

IPV impacts people of all ages, genders, economic, racial, religious, cultural, ethnic, and national backgrounds. Fowler noted abuse does also happen to men.

Statistically, 44 percent of Canadian women have experienced IPV in their lifetimes, and over 64 percent noted they know someone who has experienced abuse.

IPV, she said, is a public health issue. “We need to get it out from behind closed doors.”

In 2013, the World Health Organization declared IPV as a global problem of epidemic proportions. In 2022, the UN Secretary General referred to it as the world’s longest, deadliest pandemic, she said.

Guenther noted it has not been easy to collect specific data for local communities. What is known is that IPV is 1.8 times higher in rural communities, according to Stats Canada, as they are less able to access supports.

Hiatus House had 375 admissions last year. She noted around 18 percent of the women served are from the County, and around 20 percent of children are from the County. There were 3830 crisis calls.

Lakeshore Mayor Tracey Bailey happily made the motion to support making the declaration. Amherstburg a Michael Prue asked that the motion be sent to the Premier of Ontario with a note asking the government to reconsider this as an epidemic.

Around 40 municipalities, counties, and towns across the province have made the same declaration, including the Town of Essex during its Regular meeting on July 17, 2023. Essex Council sent a letter of support to Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, Sylvia Jones, Minister of Ministry of Health, Essex MPP Anthony Leardi, and Mary Birch, Director of Legislative and Community Services/Clerk for the County of Essex.

By Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 08, 2023 at 10:47

This item reprinted with permission from   Essex Free Press   Essex, Ontario

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