Shining a light on violence against women

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Mayor-elect Darrin Canniff, Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre’s Karen Hunter and Teri Simmons were joined by Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn at the ceremonial kick off of the Shine the Light campaign Nov. 1 during Women Abuse Prevention Month.

Lighting up Chatham-Kent in a purple glow is the aim of the Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre (CKWC) Shine the Light campaign that kicked off Nov. 1, the start of Women Abuse Prevention Month in Canada.

Rain didn’t stop Karen Hunter, executive director, and Teri Simmons, board chair, from heading outside for a ceremonial lighting of a Christmas tree in the purple colours of the campaign. The pair was joined by Mayor-Elect Darrin Canniff and CKPS Chief Gary Conn, board members and the community at large.

“Every woman has the fundamental right to live safely and securely in her own home,” Hunter said during the ceremony. “This is a human rights issue. If women don’t feel safe, the very fabric of our society is torn apart.”

During this month, Hunter said they are asking the community to join them in wearing a purple scarf to symbolize support for ending violence against women, and asked people to help bring awareness to the issue and its effects on women and their children.

The scarves are for sale at the CKWC during November. They also hope that homes and businesses in the community put up purple lights or decorations during the month to show their support.

Abuse can take many forms, including emotional and physical, and the supports and services at the women’s centre offer hope to victims and their families to break the cycle of violence. Hunter said the centre’s mission is to support women and help them realize that shame or blame doesn’t belong to them; it belongs to the abuser.

A lantern with a purple light was passed to each person in attendance, a symbol of a beacon of hope across the community.

Canniff, who attended to support the CKWC, said the shelter is an extremely important resource in the community.

“It provides shelter for individuals who have no other place to go. It’s an essential service and it’s wonderful that we can highlight this month what those services are and that we need more support for it,” Canniff said at the event. “Awareness and education are key to this and that’s why we focus on the month; we need to get awareness out there as far as possible.”

Canniff added that prevention is also key and when women and children are in the shelter, it means abuse is already happening.

“We, collectively as a society, need to take it back one so it never happens in the first place. The best thing in the world would be to make facilities like this one obsolete because it’s not needed,” Canniff stated. “Unfortunately, right now it is needed and it serves a beneficial purpose in our community.”

The CKWC is hosting an Anniversary Gala Event Nov. 10 at Links of Kent in honour of the 40th anniversary of the opening of the women’s shelter in Chatham. Tickets are $60 per person or $100 per couple, and can be obtained by calling Hunter at 519-351-9145.

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