YWCA Hamilton joins the call to declare Intimate and Gender-Based Violence an Epidemic

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YWCA Hamilton joins the call to declare Intimate and Gender-Based Violence an Epidemic

YWCA Hamilton’s Director of Housing and Gender-Based violence services Amy Deschamps was one of the speakers at a recent press conference held to declare Intimate Partner Violence an epidemic in Hamilton. Here are her reflections of the event.

Not. One. More.

These were the words chanted at a press conference held last week by the Women Abuse Working Group.  We gathered to draw attention to the staggering rates of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Femicides across the Province, rates disproportionately impacting Indigenous Women, 2S-LGBTQIA+, sex workers and racialized individuals. We gathered to do what the province of Ontario did not: to declare that Intimate Partner and Gender Based Violence IS an epidemic, and to call upon the municipality of Hamilton to do the same.

We have recently seen several longstanding Violence Against Women’s service providers close their doors within the past year – at a time when desperately need service expansion, not reduction.  While we know local agencies, including YWCA Hamilton, have stepped up and transitioned these services to reduce disruptions – there is unquestionable and undue impact on a sector that is constantly trying to piece together funding to deliver life saving and changing services due to the lack of unsustainable, annualized funding and resources allocated. These service gaps, disruptions and transitions also represent a deep knowledge loss within this field, as subject matter experts, who are critical in informing safety planning and risk assessment for individuals experiencing gendered violence, left the field

We know the impacts of this on service users, where changes and gaps leave women and families at an increased risk. We know it presents lasting impact on the ability for survivors to re-build trust and willingness to access the trauma informed care needed to break cycles of violence, and we know the harms of re- traumatization in the re- telling of one’s story’s time and time again.  The consequences that, at times, it may feel like a better option to return to an unsafe home than face countless hurdles and barriers.

We know that family separation is a critical time of increased risk for women and children; and yet service like Supervised Access Centres have seen no sustainable funding increase in more than 15 years, and funding decreases in future, all with a waitlist of more than two years for service locally.

There are critical investments needed from all levels of government in increasing long term permanent affordable housing availability, short-term access through increased capacity to IPV shelters. We need investments such as increased portable housing benefits which prioritize survivors of gendered violence. We need investments in sustainable, long-term funding for Supervised Access Centres to support safe visitation and exchanges, as well as increased ‘second stage’ and transitional housing options that create stability for women and children when they must leave shelter, only be faced with market rent prices they can not afford.

We also know that housing alone is not the answer. We need to prioritize the growing and complex health and mental needs of individuals, children and youth, who have experienced trauma – trauma that is only further exacerbated by the lack of action and attention on this issue.

We need:

  • Housing that supports women and families along the continuum of their journey.
  • Housing that also supports their children’s growth and development.
  • Housing that builds communities of safety and support where families can thrive

…Because when we talk about IPV, when we talk about Femicide, we are also taking about children.  Many of these children have begun their formative years exposed to violence, only to spent months and sometimes years of their lives stuck in cycles of poverty, homelessness and eviction due lack of affordable options. In the past, individuals could access shelter due to domestic violence and wait there, receiving the support and safety needed until a housing offer became available to begin their new life. This is no longer possible with the need, capacity and affordability crisis we face.

These gaps in service, shelter and housing leave women and children at risk. We are seeing these lethal consequences every day in our province – a matter also highlighted this week by our provincial shelter association OAITH.  We must do better now.

For more information about the realities of IPV and Femicide in Ontario please see: (@_oaith_ on Instagram or https://www.oaith.ca/oaith-work/we-count-femicide-because/).

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