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Death Does Not Become Her: Pre-Mortem Initiatives

The Urban Women's Anti-violence Strategy launches a week of events

by Fazeela Jiwa Dominion Stories

Urban Women's Anti-violence Strategy Poster of Events
Urban Women's Anti-violence Strategy Poster of Events

Also posted by fazeelajiwa:

Death Does Not Become Her.

This is the name that women’s anti-violence groups from the lower mainland have given to a series of nightly events planned during the provincial government named “Prevention of Violence Against Women Week,” April 18 – 25.

This week, the “Urban Women’s Anti-Violence Strategy” comes together for the second year in an unprecedented coalition of frontline feminist organizations that includes rape crisis centres, transition houses, second stage houses, and women’s organizing centres. Last year, this coalition enjoyed the success of enlivening cafes on Main Street with discussions on violence against women. Tonight, it starts again with a consciousness raising session on Commercial Drive.

This week’s events are meant as a criticism of the Solicitor General’s Domestic Violence Action Plan, unveiled in January of this year following an inquest into the murder of six-year old Christian Lee, his mother Sunny Park, and her parents by Peter Lee. Despite Sunny Park’s reports about his violence towards her, Peter Lee was released on bail by the police and within five weeks, murdered his family.

Highlights of the solicitor general’s action plan include $250,000 funding for risk-assessment training for police, prosecutors, and service providers that will identify factors that deem the accused “high risk,” and a death review panel that will examine 11 domestic violence cases between 1995 and 2009 in order to advise the coroner on “medical, legal, social welfare and other matters that may impact public health and safety and the prevention of deaths.” (Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General Press Release, January 18 2010)

Frontline workers are coming together to increase their solidarity in their insistence for provincial government changes that will prevent violence against women, not investigate deaths and risks after the violence has already occurred. Angela MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services explains “In these high profile murder cases there has been high involvement of the system but there has been little to no involvement of women’s organizations. This is a problem. The domestic violence action plan’s emphasis on risk management and away from an equality seeking agenda is a systemic problem that does not recognize that women’s organizations have a critical role in ending violence against women.”

The provocative poster for the event reads “Pre-Mortem Initiatives,” and pictures the feet of a female corpse with a toe-tag. The line and the image embody the coalition’s anger that the recent reforms focus on the dead rather than the needs of the living. “As usual, they prefer to count the dead, to bring in SWAT at the moment of death,” says Lee Lakeman, a collective member of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. “They want to talk about prevention – well, we are the groups that actually prevent violence against women.”

The Urban Women’s Anti-Violence Strategy is meant to insert the voices of women’s groups into the provincial reforms, and fight for government support for frontline women’s groups that save women’s lives. Feminist anti-violence organizations play an essential role in fighting the systemic inequalities that reinforce and perpetuate violence against women.

This week’s events will confirm the alliance between equality-seeking women’s groups of the lower mainland (including Women Against Violence Against Women, Surrey Women’s Centre, Act 2, Battered Women’s Support Services, and Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter.) “We will bring compelling and pressing issues to the public perspective and bring individuals together in a call to action – and action will be discussed on every night,” says MacDougall.

The events are open to the public and will be held in a series of locations on Commercial Drive. They will address a variety of topics related to ending sexist violence – from systemic forces that sustain male violence, to battered women getting arrested when they call police, to men’s role in the feminist movement.

“Many know the movie and the line ‘death becomes her,’” says Lakeman. “We would like to transform that – because death does NOT become her.”

Fazeela Jiwa is an independent journalist that also works with VRRWS

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Prevention of Violence Against Women


As Vancouver anti-violence women’s organizations launch a week of events aimed at building public awareness of violence against women, women’s equality is still a work in process for far too many women in British Columbia.  Feminist anti-violence services are profoundly grounded in a vision of equality and liberation for all women, a vision which uniquely positions these essential services as leaders in the fight to end to violence against women.

Resistance to acknowledging women’s realities and needs still operates at the highest levels in our governments, amidst a round of provincial government cuts to the social service sector, essential services for women and their families are at real risk.  While the anti-violence work focuses on the multiple impacts of violence on women’s lives, we are deeply aware that women use a wide range of community, health and education services to ensure the safety and stability of themselves and their families. Our work is fundamental to increasing the allocation of resources to these services, which are critical for protecting women’s lives and promoting their overall well-being.

Our services are essential to saving women’s lives. Each and every day, we help women escape from violence, while directly supporting and facilitating their efforts to heal from the effects of abuse and violence. At root, our work is about empowering to women understand their value to society and to demand their equality rights, which must include a right to access quality services.

Promoting gender equality both creates a public consensus for providing these
essential life-saving services and ensures that women consistently benefit from government policies and become a priority when it comes to budget decision-making. 


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