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Impacts of violence, services for women discussed at Thompson Moose Hide Campaign event

A May 12 event centred on the grassroots campaign to end violence against women and children included a walk though the community and a variety of speakers.

The impacts of violence against women and children as well as some of the services that are available for those experiencing it were among the topics addressed by speakers at a Thompson event centred around the Moose Hide Campaign May 12.

Jointly hosted by Keewatin Tribal Council and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimanakak, the event at the legion included a walk to end violence, as well as numerous speakers from local organizations, including those providing social services and also the RCMP.

The Moose Hide Campaign is a grassroots movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys opposing violence against women and children, a longstanding issue that remains a concern throughout society.

“The Moose Hide Campaign emphasizes the necessity of speaking up and taking the steps to really eradicate gender-based violence,” said Sherry Gott, the prevention and healing initiatives co-ordinator with MKO’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls liaison unit.

Only a holistic approach can help reduce violence against women and children, she said, as the problem stems from racism, sexism, poverty, colonization, substance abuse and the devaluing of Indigenous women, among other factors. 

“We cannot remain silent and condone violence against our Indigenous sisters,” Gott said. “We must speak up.”

Victims of intimate partner violence often feel as if they are all alone or are enduring abuse because they have done something wrong, said elder Marie Ballantyne, who also gave the opening prayer at the event.

Ballantyne said she was hospitalized nine times by her partner while living in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation before finally leaving. One of the factors that led to her decision was something an RCMP officer in the community told her.

“He said to me, ‘I’ll come here to your house one day and I’ll put you in a body bag. Do something.’”

Ballantyne urged anyone in the same situation not to keep it to themselves.

“Tell somebody,” she said. “That somebody might save your life.”

Mary-Azure Laubmann said the scars from being abused do not fade easily.

“I don’t know if it ever goes away,” she said. 

Hearing from people with similar experiences, however, helps survivors understand that it is not about them, Laubmann told Ballantyne.

“People like you give us hope and help us to believe that we are not stupid, that we are not dumb, that we are not ugly, that we are not fat, that we will never amount to anything, that no one will ever love us again.”

Kim Hickes, director of the Thompson YWCA, said the organization holds events focused on violence against women a couple of times a year, including ceremonies on Dec. 6 to remember 14 women shot and killed at École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989 as well as the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser, which helps support programming at its Women’s Resource Centre.

In addition to providing peer support and connecting women to funding, training and employment services, the centre will also begin providing follow-up services for women who have experience sexual assault later this year. The YWCA also has a transition program that provides supportive housing and counselling for up to three years as women work towards independence. It also works closely with the Thompson Crisis Centre and is the backup housing location for women experiencing violence if the crisis centre doesn’t have space for them.