YARMOUTH, N.S. - Each year in late November/early December, people are encouraged to display purple ribbons to help raise awareness about violence against women. This year, as part of an initiative making its tri-county debut, people are invited to shine a purple light on the same issue during the month of November.
The purple ribbon campaign goes from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 and has been held annually for years. This more recent initiative – billed as Shine a Light on Woman Abuse – was developed by the London Abused Women’s Centre and is being held in southwestern Nova Scotia for the first time.
“It’s to raise awareness, again, about violence against women and the services that are available to them,” said Lisa Newell-Bain, executive director of Juniper House in Yarmouth, one of the organizations involved in the effort. “It’s for the whole month of November and the idea is to light things purple, so it’s calling attention to the issue.”
Bernadette MacDonald, executive director of the Tri-County Women’s Centre, said the abuse of women tends to be private “so we’re really encouraging the community to make it public by shining a light – a purple light – in their place of employment, in their home environment, wherever they feel they can do best.”
The colour purple is a symbol of courage, survival and honour and has come to symbolize the fight to end woman abuse.
The Shine a Light campaign is quite big in London, Ontario, the city where it originated about a half-dozen years ago, MacDonald said.
“The city of London, there are areas that are just all purple,” she said, “and it’s growing all the time.”
In Canada, on average, a woman dies every six days from domestic violence – that is, they die at the hands of someone they know, MacDonald said.
Adam Dolliver, executive director of SHYFT Youth Services – another of the groups involved in bringing the Shine a Light campaign to the tri-counties – said the issue of violence against women is being talked about more, which he hopes will translate into steps to address it.
“Speaking from the youth perspective,” he said, “it’s very important for us to be teaching our young boys proper ways to conduct themselves and taking responsibility for their actions ... As Bernadette was saying, it’s such a hidden thing. We need to shine the light on it and change the attitudes.”
Referring to the recent spate of news headlines about high-profile people accused of sexual misconduct, Dolliver says he hopes this too will help raise awareness about all forms of violence against women.
“Hopefully this is a watershed moment,” he said.
MacDonald notes there are a number of factors at play when it comes to the abuse of women. One is pornography, which is more accessible – and more violent – than ever and which normalizes violence against women. Another is economics, including a lack of affordable housing. Women in abusive relationships may have to choose between living with the abuse and living in poverty, MacDonald said.
“Women dealing with abuse on a daily basis are faced with some horrible choices,” she said.
Asked if she feels progress is being made in the fight against violence against women, Newell-Bain said, “People are talking about it more and I think people are reaching out for services more. There’s still much more work that needs to be done, but it is a community effort and I think this community has been very receptive and very supportive.”
Show your support:
For those who would like to show their support for the Shine a Light on Woman Abuse campaign but who need help finding purple lights, campaign organizers can help. The contacts are:
• Juniper House, Lisa Newell-Bain – 902-742-4473
• SHYFT Youth Services, Adam Dolliver or Jerica Matthews – 902-881-3111
• Tri-County Women’s Centre, Bernadette MacDonald or Lisanne Turner – 902-742-0085.