The smell of bacon and sorority filled the air at the second annual Stop the Violence Valentine’s Day Breakfast on Feb. 9
The Canadian Federation of University Women hosted the event at Canadiana Restaurant in Etobicoke to raise funds in support of Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter.
“Our national focus this year is stopping violence against women,” said Gail Rutherford, president of CFUW Etobicoke.
“People can turn blind eyes to these kinds of issues, but they need a higher profile,” said Pat Joyce, regional director of CFUW.
The federation works to ensure that all girls and women have equal opportunities and access to quality education through scholarships, interest groups and a speaker series.
Guest speaker Sharlene Tygesen, executive director of Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, told the audience at the Monday event that we live in a “culture of silence,” and educating young women, but more importantly young men, is key in making progress.
The shelter is one of 12 in Toronto providing services and support to women and children fleeing violence.
Tygesen said more than 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence nationally each year, accounting for 12 per cent of all violent crime in Canada.
“I don’t want us to keep asking women why they stay in abusive relationships,” she said.
“We have to start asking men: What kind of man do you want to be? What kind of father do you want to be? What kind of father do you want your son to be?”
The cases involving Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby have brought sexual violence to the media forefront recently, but Tygesen criticizes the backlash women are experiencing when they come forward as victims.
“Women need to be believed. We can’t keep going to that bad place where we think they’re lying,” she said.
Ontario colleges will soon be implementing a province-wide sexual assault policy, and Tygesen acknowledges steps are being taken in the right direction.
She applauded Lia Valente and Tessa Hill, two 13-year-old female students who presented Premier Kathleen Wynne with a petition asking to include “the topic of sexual consent” in the future curriculum.
“They saw the change, and they decided to be it,” said Tygesen.
People can volunteer and make donations to Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter by visiting their website at www.ernestines.ca