Friday, September 23, 2016

An Anniversary of Violence & a Call to Care

Women stand in solidarity in front of the courthouse in Pembroke, Ont., on Sept. 23, 2015, the day after the murders of three Renfrew County women.

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of a tragic day in Ontario. A man who was known for violence in his domestic relationships systematically killed three women in rural Renfrew County. We are supposed to say that he allegedly murdered these women, and so I will. But he knew them all and if he's convicted, it will stand as the worst case of multiple-partner violence in Canadian history. Of course he blames them and police harassment for the outcome. Abusers rarely want to take responsibility for their violent behaviour.

It's important to note this anniversary for several reasons. It was such a terrible sequence of events and yet it really didn't get much media coverage at the time, as though this is just a grim reality of our society.

It also pointed out the difficulty of providing services and protection for women in rural and isolated settings. When my wife, Ruth, worked as an outreach counsellor for a women's shelter she was instructed to hold events in rural communities to raise awareness of the services of the shelter and the outreach office. Posters went up everywhere and the events were advertised in church bulletins. Essentially, no one came. In one store the proprietor figured women would be reluctant to even look at the poster lest someone think they had problems at home. There is no anonymity in small communities.

The anniversary reminded me once again that churches usually do next to nothing to identify the realities of domestic abuse. When Ruth worked for the outreach program we developed a relationship with the shelter and the congregation became aware of her work. Over a decade nine or ten women from the congregation approached her about concerns for daughters and granddaughters in abusive relationships, or concerns in their own relationships. Church households are not immune from domestic abuse in its various forms.

Perhaps we can all say a prayer for those living in situations of isolation and fear and desperation. And we can resolve to say more and do more as communities of faith.


1 comment:

roger said...

I agree. Far too many people - mostly women - live in relationships of fear, abuse and control. It must be like living in a vise, and being squeezed more and more. They can never truly feel happy, even if away from the abuser for a few hours, because they know it is a very brief reprieve.

Thank goodness for the shelters and for people like Ruth who have helped the victims. For many, they were probably the only advocates they had.