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Violence against women increases across Simcoe Muskoka


Flags at Barrie City Hall flew at half-mast on Tuesday to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

December 6 marks one of Canada's most horrific tragedies after a gunman motivated by his hatred of feminists killed 14 female students and injured 13 others at Montreal's École Polytechnique in 1989.

The pain of that day continues to linger across the country, including in communities across central Ontario.

"This is a very important day. It's a sad day," said Teresa Maclennan, executive director at the Barrie Women and Children Shelter.

Thirty-three years later, Maclennan says violence against women and girls in Barrie is rising, especially during the pandemic.

"Because women were isolating at home with their abuser," she explained. "We heard more and more women say, 'He's going to kill me."

And it's not just Barrie noting an increase in violence toward women.

Hannah Lin, executive director of the YWCA Muskoka, says dozens of women were killed in Ontario this year alone, with 17 per cent from rural areas.

"Fifty-two lives lost in 52 weeks. That's too many," said Lin. "There may be fewer housing options available to them. Some of the rural communities are less resourced, so there's less access to support services."

Advocates say those challenges need to be addressed, along with education.

"When you educate people on a) what is abuse, what does that look like, it makes people more aware of the situations they might be in where they might have deemed it as normal until it's not," said Amanda Wagner, with Huronia Transition Homes.

For Brenda Sedgwick, a psychotherapist and victim of abuse, remembering the lives lost more than three decades ago in Montreal brings mixed emotions.

"For me, it is particularly formative to understand that you're not alone and that other people do experience this," she said.

Candlelight vigils honouring the women who lost their lives will be held in communities across the region tonight, including in Huntsville, Midland and Barrie. Top Stories

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