Vancouver: BWSS 40 Years Later

Vancouver: BWSS 40 Years Later

Last Monday, I attended BWSS’s 40 Years Later celebration at the Orpheum in Vancouver with special guest Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement.

BWSS stands for Battered Women’s Support Services and was founded 40 years ago by two brave women who would not give up to fight and eliminate violence against women in Vancouver, BC. The project has by now grown to a large organization providing not only shelter but free education, training, and counseling to women who have experienced abuse.

As Tarana Burke said on Monday, “Healing and self care are a luxury.” Thus, it goes without saying that a free service like BWSS is saving the lives of many women, especially those who cannot afford counseling in order to heal. She further said that victims are covered in layers of silence, and the first layer we need to shed is to get our story out of our body; BWSS is a safe place to provide exactly that.

Tarana criticized that, while the #MeToo movement was hugely advertised two years ago, it has become a little quiet around it, as there seems to be no urgency to take more action in the prevention of violence against women. While #MeToo was gaining public attention through the Harvey Weinstein scandal in 2017, it was followed by BWSS and our local union UBCP/Actra joining together to support victims of abuse in our local BC film industry. I consider myself fortunate to have received the support from #MeToo and BWSS when I needed it the most after my escape from an abusive relationship during the movement’s peak, however, I have also noticed a decline of interest. In order to prevent the dissolving of such powerful act, Burke said, we need to consistently interrupt violence when we see it in order to have and maintain a movement.

I very much appreciated Burke’s statement that the #MeToo movement means something else for everyone, because for a while I had been frustrated about its mere focus on sexual violence. Not every victim experiences sexual abuse. There are emotional, psychological, verbal, physical, and financial abuse. I also think that the movement does and should not exclude male victims of abuse. Abused male victims suffer the same way as females. On top of that, they are experiencing the cruelty of stigmatization, because society tends to label abusers as male by default.

Every now and then, I catch someone poking fun at the movement and saying, “Oooh, hashtag me too.” with feigned pity in their voice. That evening, it was made clear that it is more than just a hashtag. The hashtag creates a community and a connection. In this regard, for many isolated victims, the internet constitutes the only platform where they can reach out for help.

Monday night, we came together to celebrate and empower each other – a true feeling of community and connection that filled the entire Orpheum with words of wisdom, good music, laughter, and many, many strong women who survived.

BWSS CRISIS + INTAKE LINE: 604-687-1867 (Vancouver, BC)