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On December 6th, 1989, Mark Lepine entered the École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal, Quebec. He separated the male and female students, made anti-women statements and then opened fire, killing 14 women in total.
14 women were killed simply because they were women.
This Sunday, 26 years later, we honour and remember these 14 women along with the countless other women whose lives are impacted by violence on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Since 1991, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women has been observed in Canada to commemorate the terrible tragedy in Montreal, and to encourage discussion and action around the issue of violence against women, which still permeates our society every day.
While the massacre at the École Polytechnique is an extreme case of violence against women, the statistics speak for themselves.
These statistics are troubling and sad to read, but the reality is that these are only reported incidents -- they do not reflect the number of women who are trapped in violent relationships, but are too frightened to speak out and seek help.
And because domestic violence is not limited to only physical abuse – many women experience emotional, financial, sexual, and psychological abuse – some women have a skewed sense of boundaries and healthy relationships, and may not even recognize they are being abused. Abuse does not discriminate; a woman in an abusive relationship could be a friend, a co-worker, a family member.
Statistics are impactful but they are cold. They only tell one aspect of the story. Abused women cannot be neatly categorized or fit into a box. They are multi-faceted human beings of varied races, cultures, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds.
They are women who aren’t allowed to work. Women who are held hostage in their own homes. Women who are isolated from their friends and family and the bright and colourful experiences of life. They are women who have been struck by his hands for disagreeing, for speaking up. Women who have trembled with fright while being verbally assaulted for accidentally breaking a glass. Even more powerful than their shared struggle is the overwhelming courage they possess to walk away and start fresh at shelters like Interval House.
On December 6th, stand in solidarity with Canadians and show your support for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Wear a white or purple ribbon, observe a minute of silence, and encourage discussion about violence against women. From November 25th – December 10th, you can take part in Interval House’s #16DaysPledge. Share a photo or video of yourself on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook pledging that you know how to support someone who is experiencing domestic violence. For more information about the #16DaysPledge and to learn how you can support a loved one experiencing domestic violence, click here.