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Every year on March 8, we pause to celebrate International Women’s Day. We celebrate women’s achievements, their contributions to the world we live in, and we celebrate women’s strength and determination to continue raising the bar towards the goal of gender equity and equal human rights for all.
The theme for International Women’s Day in 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. Now there’s something we at Interval House have never been shy to do. So bold were our founders when they set out to establish Interval House in 1973 that the newspaper headline on opening day read, “radical feminists house runaway wives.” No, Interval House was not wildly popular with the general public when its doors first opened but it provided a much-needed resource to women escaping violence and their children. The shelter quickly became a community staple in Toronto. Interval House was and continues to be a safe place for women to run to when they decide to leave abuse behind and build bright futures for themselves and their families.
When we think of being bold for change, we think of all the women that have made the difficult decision to flee a life of violence and the comfort of the familiar in order to seek a life of safety and self-sufficiency with the support of Interval House and organizations like it. Our clients often leave everything behind, which is no doubt frightening. But they gain so much in the process. Through their journeys, the women we serve find strength, confidence, improved life skills and even community.
Yes, after over 40 years in the community, we have seen firsthand how brave and bold women can be in the face of adversity. But still we dream of a day when we can close our doors—a day when violence against women is no longer a rampant societal issue—and that day still seems a long way off. At Interval House, we work tirelessly to expose the cycle of violence and highlight signs of abuse. Imagine our frustration at seeing abusive behaviour romanticized in the media every day. It’s in music videos, television shows, movies and even the news. It’s in the lenient sentences handed to perpetrators of domestic abuse and sexual assault. We see controlling, obsessive and even violent behaviour chocked up to men’s displays of passion and even sold to young women as idealistic love. We know better that. That’s why, in our latest Public Service Announcement (PSA), we highlighted the subtlety of emotional abuse when it comes to violence against women, and how problematic it really is. We flipped that romanticization on its head to reveal how truly dangerous controlling behaviour is. If you haven’t yet seen it, check out the PSA called “The One That Got Away” here.
We’d love to see the media #BeBoldForChange and do away with the old stereotype that when men treat women badly, it’s a sign of attraction. We’d love to see healthy relationships highlighted while unhealthy relationships are revealed as toxic and unacceptable. We want young women and girls to have better examples presented to them so that they understand that love and possession are not one and the same. We want to end the cycle of violence for good. Until that day comes, Interval House will be here to advocate for women’s rights and safety and to empower the bold women that walk through our doors every day. And we will thank you for supporting us in our important work.
Happy International Women’s Day.