Locals recognize International Women’s Day
“By the time you get to the place where you’re supposed to get out, it’s too late. You’re no longer you,” reflected Vanessa Kee on her struggle against domestic violence. “It was such a gradual descent into hell that I never saw it happen.”
Kee shared her story of domestic abuse at an event held to commemorate International Women’s Day on March 5 at the Wilfrid Laurier University faculty of social work campus in Kitchener.
In spite of being educated on domestic abuse, Kee explained that when she began seeing red flags in her relationship with her ex-partner, she was able to rationalize them. Although he had formerly shown signs of being controlling, it was after Kee became pregnant and the two moved bought a house together that he began to show signs of violence. After an injury left her wheelchair bound during the last months of her pregnancy, the situation escalated further.
“He abused that power he had over me nearly every day. Sometimes the abuse was sexual, on most days there were violations to my basic rights,” she recalled. “And then on other days he acted like he was my knight and gave me the best of care.”
After giving birth to her daughter, Kee had a breaking moment and barricaded the house, preventing him from entering, which led to him calling the police. It was Kee, however, who was taken away by police after admitting she had both hit and pushed her ex-partner in different incidences for self-defense purposes.
“The injustice was so explicit. They were treating my actions of self-defense that were a part of each incident in which he was charged with being the aggressor as equal to his many charges that were much more serious,” she asserted.
Charges were later laid against her ex-partner as well, but in order to have her own charges dropped, Kee had to concede to having his dropped as well, to agree to anger management counselling and to enter into peace bonds for a year.
Stories like this helped to motivate the development of the event, which was put on by master’s candidates at the faculty of social work.
“On one side we wanted to invite groups to show how their cultures celebrate women, and on the other side we wanted to bring out an inequality that women still face, which is domestic violence and the criminalization of being a victim of domestic violence,” explained co-organizer Kayla Follett. Showing both sides of the issues allowed the event to “challenge” this year’s International Women’s Day theme, “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.”
Contributing research to change the pattern of dual arrest in reports of domestic violence has been part of the work done by students such as Follett as part of a course on social action.
In addition to Kee’s presentation, a number of information booths were set up from support organizations, as well as local cultural groups. A video from the United Nations about International Women’s Day was shown and the audience engaged in a group chant and drumming circle. The event generated a positive response from attendees.
“It was awesome. I’m so glad I was able to be here and listen to these amazing women and individuals talk about their experiences,” expressed Amy Power, a representative from the K—W Sexual Assault Support Centre.
Power emphasized that the Support Centre focuses on the empowerment of women, and does not force victims to report crimes, but rather provides the factual information and supports them in whatever course of action they choose to take.
Another student at the faculty of social work, Adria Joel, added, “I think it went really well, I learned a lot.”
When asked why she choose to tell her story, Kee told The Cord, “It’s the only way that we are going to see a change, is that we marry together all the research … and that we put a personal face on it.”