Warning: this column is about gender-based violence. Help is available if you or someone you know is at risk. Contact the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa for 24/7 confidential support at 613-234-2266.
How do we end gender-based violence in Ottawa?
On July 2, Anne-Marie Ready and Jasmine Ready – a mother and her 15-year old daughter – were killed by a young man in Alta Vista. Catherine Ready, 19 years old, survived the attack.
Anne-Marie and Jasmine were advanced karate students, having just received their black belts from Douvris Martial Arts. Jackie Perez from CTV News attended a community vigil that started at Edgehill Park and later went to the family home on Anoka Street. She spoke to Naomi Eberhard and Michael Penny who trained with Anne-Marie and Jasmine.
Naomi said, “These were beautiful women who were murdered, and they are an extremely important part of our community. I’ve never seen them without a smile on their face, they were so full of joy constantly.”
Michael added, “We had been training together for three years, and in the last six months you get to know people pretty well. Her karate family is here to support [Catherine].”
Days before this tragedy, the findings of an inquest were released about three women murdered in Renfrew County by Boris Borutski, a former intimate partner to all of them. The jury detailed the inadequate protections for women facing gender-based violence in rural Eastern Ontario.
According to the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, the criminal justice approach to gender-based violence is not working. They note that sexual assault cases have only a 3.2-per-cent chance of resulting in any form of penalty for the perpetrator, so it is not surprising that only five per cent of sexual assaults are reported.
So how do we end gender-based violence? There is a push for changes to the Criminal Code to designate femicide as a crime and efforts to raise awareness. Consequences matter, and education is important, but is it enough? What else must happen?
A recent study by Ottawa’s community health centres proposes “new investments in front-line violence against women shelter staff, expansion of shelter spaces for women leaving violent homes, more long-term affordable housing, as well as new investments in trauma care and counselling for women and children. Instead, the OPS (Ottawa Police Service) spends millions on sexual assault resulting in the conviction of one in 100 perpetrators.”
I recently met with Shelter Movers Ottawa, a community group that helps women and their children leave abusive homes. They’ve done over 760 moves through a network of volunteers since 2017. They are looking for more help, so if you are able to volunteer with them, please reach out at www.sheltermovers.com/ottawa.
We also need a massive ramp-up in mental health services for those who, if left untreated, will engage in gender-based violence against loved ones or neighbours. We urgently need access to mental health support with an OHIP card, not a credit card, to prevent future tragedies.
But the last word here goes to Naomi who has created an online fundraiser for the Ready Family, and given us some powerful words to remember:
“Three women’s lives forever changed, two of them no longer with us, and our health system including our mental health system is broken. We need to fix that or we will see this again, and that is not okay.”