Kamloops memorial remembers women affected by violence

By Vanessa Ybarra
December 6, 2017 - 5:57pm

KAMLOOPS — According to the Canadian Women's Foundation, every six days a woman in this country is killed by her partner.  

Along with that, three quarters of women know a female who has experienced physical or sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, the tenth annual Shoe Memorial was held at St. Andrews on the Square to remember women and girls who have been murdered.

While the event is an opportunity to honour the victims, it's also a chance to raise awareness that more services and resources are needed to support vulnerable women

Each of the four-hundred shoes at the Shoe Memorial event belong to a woman or child who has been murdered in B.C.

"We received hundreds of pairs of shoes from people donating in the community that have either dropped them off with us or dropped them off in the bin," said Kamloops Shoe Memorial Organizer Kourtney Byrd.

The Shoe Memorial began 13 years ago in Vancouver as a way to honour lives lost to violence.

Byrd, whose grandmother was murdered  by an ex-boyfriend, brought the event to Kamloops ten years ago to provide a space for Interior residents to remember.

"The focus is normally on the people that committ the crimes instead of the victims and the families. We're trying to remember the women and bring awareness to our community to make a change so that we can end violence against women."

Michele Walker, who walked away from an abusive relationship in her teens, says seeing the growing number of shoes and faces at each year's event who weren't so lucky, is emotional.

"It really is that recognition that these were lives were cut short and we need to remember that, and work really hard as a community and country to be able to change this."

Walker runs the Kamloops 'YMCA/YWCA womens shelter.

Two hundred and seventeen women and children fleeing violence accessed their services last year.

She believes there are many more cases that have not been reported.

"I think that the community is getting more open about talking about it or starting to be, people are recognizing it and are able to reach out for help but it certainly is something that's underreported so it's hard for us to tell the actual numbers."

Walker says more affordable housing is needed to help women in violent relationships.

Charlene Eden with Kamloops Sexual Assault Counseling Centre says improved access to legal aid is also required.

"That is a huge barrier for women getting away from a violent relationship," said Eden. "At the end of the day, we need men to get involved in this conversation. We need men to start looking at what is and isn't violent."

Eden says large scale campaigns like the 'Me Too' movement are helping shed light on sexual and physical violence towards women.

Her hope is there aren't even more shoes and faces at next year's event.

"This is a stark reminder we still have a long way to go before violence ends. As a community we need to show up and actually get involved in the conversation."
 

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