October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As we approach mid month, it is important to consider that one in four women will experience partner violence in their lifetime. Terrorized in their own home, ridiculed for their opinions, or forbidden to buy a cup of coffee: these are some of the scenarios that Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis have heard from women in the past thirty years.
Cory and McAndless-Davis have a vision for reaching women impacted by abuse in a new way. Using YouTube, blogs and tweets, they want to reach women using social media. More than that, they want to make material from their support groups and best selling book available online. Cory and McAndless-Davis want everyone to have access to it.
“As a society, we need to deepen our understanding of gendered violence,” says Karen McAndless-Davis. Sadly, in more than thirty years, Cory says she has not seen things get better for women.
People generally think that violence against women is committed by strangers. But the reality is that violence against women is committed overwhelmingly by husbands or boyfriends. One in four Canadian women will be with an abusive partner at some point over their life-time. “I don’t think most people understand what it means to live with an abusive man – how far he is willing to go to maintain control over a woman – how isolated and trapped a woman can be,” says Cory.
Another challenge is that people don’t understand that abuse can take many forms. “People think it is about physical abuse – a black eye, a broken bone – sometimes that’s happening,” says Cory, “but more often it’s also about controlling the money, alienating the children from their mother and cutting her off from friends, family and other supports. People think the solution is easy – she should just leave – but often women are economically trapped and when she does leave, the abuse continues through the children and through the legal system”. Leaving is also a time when women are at greater risk of being murdered by a partner, who perceives he is losing control over her.
All this means that women are left feeling afraid, hurt, confused and overwhelmed. Women are often abandoned by family, friends and professionals, left to try to find their way through the minefield of an abusive relationship.
Cory and McAndless-Davis started offering support groups for women who had experienced abuse which lead to writing a book for women on the topic. The video series is another important step for getting this support and information into women’s hands. They are also preparing an ebook, which is forthcoming.
One woman says about the approach developed by Cory and McAndless-Davis: “The book and the group saved my life! It came to me when I was totally lost and drowning in fear and self-doubt. I knew what I was living was wrong, but I couldn’t find anyone to validate what I was dealing with and name it abuse.”
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Who is Jill Cory
Jill is the director of the Woman Abuse Response Program at BC Women’s Hospital. She has nearly thirty years of experience working to end violence against women.
Who is Karen McAndless-Davis
Karen is a counselor and trainer. She has run support groups for women who have experienced abuse in many communities and has worked in the anti-violence sector for sixteen years.