On June 1st, 2023, Amy Maddess from DART, Joanna Piatkowski representing Ingamo Homes and Jen Weicker from Domestic Abuse Services Oxford (DASO) presented in front of the city council of Woodstock to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic. The motion was unanimously approved, and we are very excited to have taken this first step toward big change. To declare intimate partner violence as an epidemic throughout Ontario was the first recommendation for change to come out of the Renfrew Inquest (see related post outlining these recommendations). You may read our full speech below.
Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk, and Nathalie Warmerdam of Renfrew County were murdered by their former partner in 2015, and an inquest into these deaths was held in June 2022. Of the 86 recommendations for change issued by the jury as a result of this inquest, the first is that the Ontario government declare intimate partner violence an epidemic.
This idea is directly replicated in the recommendations issued following the Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry, which calls for a public health approach to be taken to violence against women and “stable core funding” for groups that help women survivors.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm. The term "intimate partner" includes current and former spouses, dating partners, and sexual partners. IPV does not appear in every relationship in the same way. Physical assault, sexual violence, criminal harassment, threats of physical or sexual violence, reproductive coercion, spiritual abuse, cyber violence, emotional abuse, financial abuse, or psychological abuse are all examples of how coercive control can be perpetuated. IPV can range from a single incident of violence that has long-term consequences to chronic and severe episodes that are endured for years. In many circumstances, IPV leads to femicide, which can be defined as the death of women and girls on the basis of their gender.
It is estimated that one woman in Canada is murdered by her intimate partner every six days. 54% of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals experienced intimate partner violence and their rate of violent victimization is 2 times higher than cisgender individuals.
Intimate partner violence occurs in all settings and among all socioeconomic, religious and cultural groups. The overwhelming global burden of IPV is held by women and gender queer individuals. According to one study of IPV convictions in Ontario, 92% of offenders were men. Data also reveal that women and gender queer individuals are more likely than men to be subjected to IPV with increased severity (such as being strangled, assaulted or threatened with a weapon, or sexually assaulted).
The Department of Justice Canada estimates that 7.4 billion dollars is spent on the aftermath of intimate partner violence each year. This includes immediate costs (such as emergency room visits, involvement of police and the criminal justice system) and related costs (such as loss of income, funeral expenses) and intangible costs (such as pain and suffering).
The Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH) releases regular reports on femicides in Ontario. The most recently released report, spanning November 2021 to November 2022 showed 52 women and girls murdered in Ontario during that period. The images portrayed behind me are of the 13 Ontario women that have been murdered by a current or former intimate partner in the first quarter of 2023. Please note that data from May has not yet been released.
A snapshot of Woodstock specific statistics has been included for your review in the material package we’ve provided.
The city of Woodstock remembers
2022 marked the eighth consecutive year of increase in police reported IPV in Canada. This epidemic requires immediate responses from all levels of government. The consequences of IPV are long lasting and far reaching. These women are our friends, sisters, children, parents, colleagues, employees and employers. In spite of continuing progress in public education, there is still a stigma attached to being a victim of IPV, and many choose not to report because they believe their experiences of violence are a private matter, and that they may not be believed.
To date, 14 municipalities across Ontario have declared intimate partner violence an epidemic. A full list of these municipalities has been included in the materials we’ve provided.
Today, we ask that on behalf of the City of Woodstock that all voting city councillors and your worship, Mayor Jerry Acchione, approve the motion to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic. In doing so, the City of Woodstock will have the opportunity to demonstrate that we represent a community that is committed to ending violence in intimate relationships. This declaration will send a strong message to victims of IPV that they need not suffer violence in private; that they are part of a community that will stand with them, support them, and believes in their right to safety. This declaration will make it clear to our residents and the province that the City of Woodstock will not tolerate this violence in our community. Thank you. We welcome any questions you may have.