Get important conversations started at Dec. 6 vigil

By Cecilia Nasmith

While the past year has seen anecdotal evidence that victims of domestic violence are more likely to speak out, the statistical evidence is that the incidences of domestic violence are increasing.

The local End Silence About Violence group wants to encourage members of the community – all ages and genders – to show support for their work for awareness and justice by attending their Dec. 6 vigil against violence in Cobourg.

Group member Ilona Kaltenhauser said the event is planned to take place on the National Day of Remembrance and Action, commemorating the date of the so-called Montreal Massacre in 1989, when a disgruntled young man mowed down 14 female students (and wounded 14 more) at the city's Ecole Polytechnique.

As horrific as that was, Kaltenhauser said, it wasn't the last of such an incident. So far in 2018, so-called Incels (men who call themselves Involuntary Celibates because they are unable to attract a girlfriend) are blamed for 45 deaths in four massacres in North America. Ten of them (two men, eight women) are accounted for in a Toronto-area incident. They target women because of how they perceive themselves being treated, Kaltenhauser said, but they also strike out at attractive men.

In Canada, according to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, 106 women were killed in the first eight months of 2018. That puts this year on track for a higher number than 2017, she pointed out, and the vast majority of the cases are intimate femicide – murder by an intimate partner.

Over the past year, she has learned of husbands killing their wives in incidents as close as Brighton and Peterborough. And last year, such an incident took place in the Cobourg hospital. Sometimes the husbands commit suicide as well, she added, but not always.

Kaltenhauser has had close experience herself, in the case of a friend who suffered date rape. The accused was found guilty and negotiated a two-years-less-a-day sentence in spite of his sarcastic, eye-rolling attitude.

“Within 45 minutes, the handcuffs were off, he's appealing, and he's free to go,” she recalled.

The highly publicized #metoo and #timesup movements have shed light on the issue, she said, but too many victims remain in the dark.

The local vigil typically takes place at noon at what is known as the Gathering Place, a little piece of land across Church Street from Cobourg's Victoria Park near the Lake Ontario shore beside Frances Gage's sculpture. The event will include guest speakers Rona Scoffield (who will describe her work in fighting violence against women) and Bonnie Symons (who will talk about her grandmothers' advocacy group and the United Nations Orange The World campaign).

Lunch will be donated by the Cobourg Police Service, as they always do, and it will be served indoors. There will also be hot cider and hot chocolate for a warm-up.

“We encourage them – men, women and children - to attend,” Kaltenhauser said.

“We want the discussion to keep going about things like bullying, because that's what leads to abuse.

“We need to talk and dialogue on these issues and say, 'What can we do,' to look at the justice system, to look at social change – because it's not getting better.”