Violence against Aboriginal women and girls continues to be a disturbing reality across Canada. Aboriginal women experience the highest rates of violence, including extreme, life-threatening violence, in our country. The almost 1200 cases1 of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada is our national tragedy.
Aboriginal women are five times more likely to experience domestic violence than non-Aboriginal women, and three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be killed by someone they know. Often families are stuck in a cycle of inter-generational violence stemming from colonization, residential schools, and racism against Aboriginal people. Many Aboriginal women fail to acknowledge or report the violence against them for fear, shame, financial dependence, and the accepted normalization of violence in their lives.
The causes of violence against Aboriginal women and girls are rooted in historical factors including colonialism, racism, isolation and residential schools. The impacts of these historical factors have resulted in profound harm to Aboriginal communities including loss of culture, language, alienation, poverty, unemployment, lack of life skills, and an erosion of traditional knowledge, values and skills, including parenting skills.
Any discussion of domestic violence in Indigenous communities must also be placed within an historical context. It is now increasingly recognized that the experience of Indigenous people and the violence perpetrated through colonization, the Indian Act and residential schools created an environment for violence to afflict Indigenous communities including:
This toolkit has been created to support Indigenous communities in planning, developing, and delivering programs to prevent or address existing domestic violence. These key tips and lessons learned are a product of the 24 BC Aboriginal Domestic Violence programs funded by BCAAFC from 2015-2017. The Toolkit shares the wisdom, experiences, and advice from Indigenous communities, both on and off reserve, on delivering community led, culturally responsive, holistic, and reconciliatory domestic violence programs to women, men, children, and Elders.
Reasons why Indigenous women and girls continue not to report sexual assault include: intimidation by authority figures particularly law enforcement agencies; the lack of trauma informed and culturally safe services; closeness of communities leading to fear of reprisals or shame; the relationship of the survivor to the perpetrator; unfamiliarity with legal processes; and in some cases a fear that the perpetrator will be sent to prison such as those cases when the sexual assault occurs in a domestic situation.
It’s normal for survivors of sexual violence to experience feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear. If these feelings become severe, last more than a few weeks, or interrupt your day-to-day life, it might be a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can result from a traumatic event. You may have heard the term used in relation to the military, but it can apply to survivors of any type of trauma, including sexual violence. Survivors might experience uncharacteristic feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and nervousness—and this is perfectly normal. With PTSD, these feelings are extreme, can cause you to feel constantly in danger, and make it difficult to function in everyday life.
While all survivors react differently, there are three main symptoms of PTSD:
BC Friendship Centres Action Plan to End Violence against Aboriginal women and Girls
Recognizing the urgency of this issue, the BCAAFC created an Action Plan through a two stage engagement process with the 25 BC Friendship Centres.
The BCAAFC Action Plan to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Girls leads in the spirit of the February 2015 "A Vision for a Violence Free BC" plan, the February 2014 Provincial 3 year Domestic Violence Plan and BC’s Speech from the Throne, where the Government of BC committed to the following:
“…Over the past year, government has taken significant action on domestic violence and on missing and murdered women. That's why, this year we will introduce a long-term, comprehensive strategy to move towards a violence-free B.C. and ensure women, including Aboriginal and vulnerable women, have the supports they need to help prevent violence, to escape from violent situations, and to recover if they have been victims of crime.”
A Vision for a Violence Free BC (Feb. 2015)
BC’s Provincial Domestic Violence Plan (Feb. 2014)
Ministry of Justice report: Safety and Security of Vulnerable women in BC (2013)
RCMP: Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women - An Operational Overview (2014)