Violence Against Women is the intent by an intimate partner or other, to control a woman’s behavior or to induce fear by means of verbal abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual or physical abuse, or intimidation.
Isolation, financial degradation, public humiliation, and threats of violence are all forms of abuse.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, the Emily Murphy Centre is a community organization that can help. Call them for more information (1-519-271-3773), visit their website or pick up a brochure at the next CFUW meeting.
Violence Against Women – Committee News
On November 3, Lisa Wilde, Executive Director of the Emily Murphy Centre spoke at the first open meeting hosted by CFUW Stratford’s Advocacy committee – working to eliminate violence against women.
The Emily Murphy Centre is a woman-led and operated organization that offers rent-geared-to-income housing and support programs for women and children escaping abusive situations. A 20-unit, apartment style residence located in Stratford, it serves Stratford, Perth County and the surrounding area.
Founded in Stratford about 35 years ago, the centre was the brainchild of the shelter movement, initially limiting stays to one year but with the increasing difficulty of finding affordable housing it has now extended the time limit to 4 years. (Stratford’s emergency short-term shelter is Optimism Place where a stay is limited to 8 weeks).
In 2018 there was a waitlist of 15-18 families; during the pandemic that list grew to 83 families! To help support this huge number, virtual services were created for outreach and safety planning. Strides have been taken since the pandemic. The waitlist is now down to 15 families and 2 have been on the general housing waitlist for 2 years. Two women who have been living rough (homeless and living in encampments have been admitted recently.
Women and children need more than shelter. Food is the next top priority and the Emily Murphy Centre tries to help provide it as well as furniture and clothing.
There are individual and group counseling programs for women and children. Many services are now available virtually.
In 2000, supervised access programs were created in Stratford, Listowel, Goderich, Clinton, and Exeter. This allows for the children to have safe visits and exchanges with the non-custodial parent/caregivers at 5 locations around the two counties.
Lisa Wilde says that hers is a “wonderful awful heart-breaking job to have” and she loves it. There are many more challenges now. The trend is an increase in mental health problems, a higher incidence of substance abuse with the addition of cyber-bullying and harassment occurring behind the “safety” of a computer screen. Lisa believes we are seeing “new heights of patriarchy in our society” in harassment and stalking.
Over the years, in Stratford and area, many sexual assault cases were dismissed as “unfounded”. The Emily Murphy centre and Optimism Place have a sexual assault review team which meets twice a year to go over Sexual Violence crimes that have been dismissed as unfounded or have been cleared without charge. This has been successful and fewer crimes are now dismissed.
Lisa said that change must start from policy – top down and needs to happen as far up as the Federal Government. Newfoundland has a system we could emulate – a Ministry for Women with representatives from all other ministries.
The Centre is named after Emily Murphy (1868 – 1933), the first female magistrate in Canada and a champion for women’s rights – one of the Famous Five women who campaigned for women to be recognized as persons under the law. She also wrote and published the Janey Canuck books! Emily Murphy was also a woman of her time with the biases of that era. A short biography exists on their website.
Funding and support given to the Emily Murphy Centre
The Emily Murphy Centre is funded through the City of Stratford and the County of Perth. It is separate and apart from the Social Housing System. The EMC is also supported by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the United Way. They have 8 full-time staff members and an Executive Director.
The Centre fundraises 15% of their budget. A partnership with Goodwill (on Ontario St.) gives them vouchers so that women can choose their own clothing. The Stratford Public Library provides help with period poverty, giving out menstruation supplies for free. There are corporate sponsors such as Shoppers Drug Mart; some banks and some smaller businesses have given generously.
How can I help the Emily Murphy Centre?
(Suggestions from Lisa Wilde)
Inform people about available services – “If you suspect something, say something.”
Engage in political advocacy – talk about services for women who are suffering. Wear purple on Nov 25 – the day to stop violence against women.
Volunteer – to provide childcare in the EMC complex, to sit on the Board, or to monitor supervised access visits (training provided)
Fundraise – 15% of the EMC budget comes from their own fund-raising efforts. Please support events by attending or volunteering. Help is needed to publicize events.
Check the Facebook page to see what is currently needed.
Food donations – consider money or food cards
Donate gently used clothes to Goodwill. They provide vouchers to EMC for women in need.
There is a new push to help women who have experienced sexual violence – at present women have to go to Kitchener to get a rape kit. Often, they are taken in a police car. Perth County needs 2 or 3 nurse practitioners trained to do this work.
There needs to be trauma-informed training for police officers and the school board.
Over the last 35 years, the Emily Murphy Centre has helped close to 5,000 families. It has 8 staff and an executive director.
There are many success stories of women becoming independent and successful thanks to the work of the EMC and the community that supports them.
- This meeting on Nov 3, 2023 was open to all CFUW members – 12 attended at Leora Rissin’s home and enjoyed her tremendous hospitality.
- You are invited to join this committee. Please contact Leora to offer suggestions or for more information.