The Discourse reporters Shalu Mehta and Jacqueline Ronson spoke with local changemakers about issues affecting women in a March 8 event. Screenshot from Zoom/Facebook
Cowichan Valley Nanaimo Vancouver Island

Local resources available to navigate legal issues of marriage and relationships

The Discourse held its second annual International Women’s Day event on March 8, focused on women's legal rights in relationships and marriages in B.C. 
Tegwyn Hughes March 9, 2022

The Discourse was pleased to hold its second annual International Women’s Day event on Facebook Live March 8, inviting Vancouver Island changemakers to speak about issues affecting women locally. The 2022 event focused on women’s legal rights and domestic abuse in relationships and marriages in B.C. 

Shalu Mehta and Jacqueline Ronson, reporters for The Discourse, hosted the event. The full video can be viewed here or on Facebook

The featured poets for the event were Kailey Dawne DeFehr, Nanaimo’s first Youth Poet Laureate, and Erin Moonister O’Brien. DeFehr, a poet, creative writer and aspiring novelist, started the event by reading an original poem titled “How It Came Down.” 

Mehta and Ronson were then joined by Lia Marie Versaevel, a mediator at Accord Inc., and Bernadette Franke, the counselling team supervisor at Cowichan Women Against Violence Society.

Domestic abuse creates relationship inequities

While Versaevel explained marriage is a contract where spouses are legally considered equal, Franke added the reality of marriage in B.C. is still not equal for women — domestic abuse continues to disproportionately impact women. 

Franke went on to emphasize the role COVID-19 has played in reducing women’s agency and ability to seek help in situations of domestic abuse.

“Women are incredibly resilient, but it’s hard to know they must use that resilience so often,” she said.

Versaevel recommended women be cautious when entering new relationships, especially as online dating has made it more difficult to assess other people’s intentions.

Overall, the two speakers wanted Vancouver Island women to know help was available.

“Asking for help is not a failure,” Versaevel said. “[Abuse] is not something someone should have to navigate alone.”

Moonsister O’Brien, a poet, multidisciplinary artist and co-parenting mom, ended the ceremony with a reading from “Typewriter Diary,” a series of poems written at home in the early days of COVID-19. She has released two previous chapbooks, “A Cycle Of The Moon” and “Using Whatever We’ve Got To Make It.”

Throughout the event, speakers emphasized the diverse resources available to women and gender-diverse people experiencing domestic abuse in the Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo and across Vancouver Island. They are listed below.

Resources available locally and across B.C.

Cowichan Women Against Violence (CWAV)

CWAV is “a supportive space for diversity, change, choice, and growth.” The society offers several programs in the Duncan area, including safe housing, youth and legal advocacy, counselling and educational programs. The society also has a program called “Men Choose Respect,” a 12-week course for men “who want to change their use of abuse in their partner relationships and in their family.”

Justice Access Centres

The B.C. government operates Justice Access Centres to guide people through family and civil legal issues, including those related to divorce, housing and employment. There are Justice Access Centres located in Abbotsford, Nanaimo, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.

Haven Society

Haven Society’s mission is to promote the integrity and safety of women, children, youth and families and the development of a respectful and healthy community. Based in Nanaimo, the society offers drop-in and emergency services, as well as transitional programs for those leaving domestic abuse. Haven society also offers a “Men Choose Respect” course.

BC Housing Women Fleeing Violence Directory

The BC Housing website is a useful tool for accessing women’s transition housing and support programs across the province. It also has a contact form visitors can fill out for one-on-one help.

Vancouver Island Crisis Line

For emergency support, crisis intervention, information and resources across Vancouver Island, the islands of the Salish Sea and mainland communities between Powell River and Rivers Inlet, residents can call 1-888-494-3888 at any time, or text 250-800-3806 from 6 p.m to 10 p.m., seven days a week. The line is run by Vancouver Island Crisis Society and contracted by Island Health.

Victim Link BC

VictimLinkBC is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual service available 24-7. It can be accessed by calling or texting 1-800-563-0808 or sending an email to [email protected] The service provides information and referral services and immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence.

For additional resources specific to certain needs or communities, the Ending Violence Association of BC has a detailed online directory of resources across the province.

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