If you’re feeling like the plight to end violence against women and girls has taken a giant step backwards lately, you’re not alone.
Last month, we learned of the death of an 11-year-old Brampton girl, allegedly at the hands of her father, just days after a disturbing new report confirmed a woman or girl is killed roughly every 60 hours in Canada— a trend unchanged in 40 years.
Then came news that a much anticipated government funding boost for Ontario’s Rape Crisis Centres — including Sarnia’s — has been slashed significantly, which won’t help relieve lengthy waitlists and surging service demand.
But the biggest blow came Feb. 22 when Jeremy Molitor was granted full parole after serving just 17 years of a life sentence for murdering 21-year-old Jessica Nethery.
“It concerns me, what message this sends to others who do harm and murder someone through domestic violence,” said Michelle Batty, director at the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre and Women’s Interval Home, where service demand is rising.
Batty was one of more than 100 people who sent letters to the Parole Board of Canada opposing Molitor’s release, along with a petition signed by thousands.
“When someone murders another person, stabbing them 58 times and receiving a life sentence, one would expect they would complete that full term.
“We’ve heard too many horror stories from across the province and across Canada.”
Last year, 148 Canadian women and girls were killed in violence, according to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA). It is calling on everyone from legislators to the news media to help prevent femicide — the killing of women and girls — and to remember the victims.
Victims like 17-year-old Katrina Kiyoshk, who was raped, murdered and dumped in a marsh on Walpole Island in 2005. Her killer walked free after less than six months of time served.
It’s not a losing battle, says Batty, but it will take action.
“We need everyone in our community — and we need our male allies to assist us. It needs to be in the curriculum, so that at a very young age, healthy relationships are talked about.”
This year, the first annual Love Thy Woman Gala, held in Nethery’s memory by friend Tracy MacDonald, raised nearly $5,000 for the Interval Home. Her annual Women Helping Women event has raised more than $20,000 to date.
We can’t bring back those we’ve lost, but we must keep fighting to prevent it from happening again. Volunteer, donate, attend local events that help raise awareness and funds for life-saving crisis services.
Contact your government representatives and demand that ending femicide become a priority.
The parole board didn’t listen to the community, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get louder. For Jessica, for Katrina, and too many others.
If you are in crisis, call 519-337-3320.
Tara Jeffrey is a reporter and board member for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre, Sarnia-Lambton.