Friday night vigil sheds light on violence against women

Changing the culture key to ending the perpetuation of abuse of women and children, said Ishtar’s executive director.

Township fire chief Stephen Gamble, City Councillor Rudy Storteboom, Langley MLA Mary Polak, Township Mayor Jack Froese, City Mayor Ted Schaffer, and City Councillor Gayle Martin listened to Diane Warawa, wife of Langley MP Mark, speak at McBurney Plaza during Friday night's vigil to promote awareness about violence against women.

Dec. 6 marks the 27th anniversary of the day a man walked into Montreal’s École Polytechnique and gunned down 14 women.

And discriminatory violence against women is as prevalent now, as it was then.

“It’s important that you know that we turned away 889 women and over 400 children last year, due to lack of space,” Ishtar Transition Housing Society executive director Laurie Parsons told those gathered on a relatively warm, clear evening at McBurney Plaza, for a candlelight vigil to promote awareness about violence against women.

“We certainly have a shortage of resources in Langley and all over the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland,” Parsons said.

Nov. 25 is the day declared by the United Nations, for Elimination of Violence against Women and launches 16 days of activism against gender violence.

Friday night’s 12th annual vigil was hosted by the Soroptimist International of the Langleys as well as the Ishtar Transition Housing Society – which provides a 12 bed facility in Langley that provides safe, temporary emergency accommodations for women and their children leaving an abusive relationship.

Parsons noted there were 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada in the last year, and of those, 33 per cent were reported to police, 29 per cent were reported as a crime, 12 per cent had charges laid, six per cent were prosecuted, and three per cent led to convictions.

“Of those convictions, some may be quite minor,” Parsons said. “Roughly 98 per cent (of sexual assaults) are not in any way addressed. I’m not sure how we can call sexual assault illegal and actually convict three per cent of assailants. So ending violence against women and children is more than changing the laws; it’s about changing culture. It’s about how we perceive this problem and how we address it.”

Sharon Fisher, of the Soroptimist International of the Langleys called  violence against women and girls “One of the least prosecuted crimes and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development.”

“We all know we have much to do to respond to the cries for justice of women and girls who have suffered violence, even now when the silence of violence has finally been broken,” Fisher said. “Surely, it must be time for action when up to 70 per cent of women in some countries face physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.”

Dignitaries at the vigil included Langley MP Mark Warawa, Township fire chief Stephen Gamble, City Councillor Rudy Storteboom, Langley MLA Mary Polak, Township Mayor Jack Froese, City Mayor Ted Schaffer, and City Councillor Gayle Martin.

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