Violence against women in Vancouver's DTES has been 'normalized'

According to a report released Friday by a coalition of women's groups, gender-based violence is a "major and persisting problem" in Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood.

A new report is calling for a safety strategy to support women in the DTES

A report calls for greater safety for women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. ((Jae C. Hong/Associated Press))

According to a report released Friday by a coalition of women's groups in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, gender-based violence is a "major and persisting problem" in the neighbourhood.

The Women's Coalition was formed following the 2011 revelations surrounding a series of sexual assaults at First United Church's co-ed shelter. Their report, Getting to the Roots: Exploring systemic violence against women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, was created as a means to draw attention to both the violence and the official response to it, which was seen as blaming the victims.

"We were shocked and dismayed by the reaction," Alice Kendall of the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre told CBC News. "But also that there wasn't a rally to secure women's safety in that space."

Women in the DTES were surveyed by the Coalition on their views on safety, places in the neighbourhood where they felt safe. A series of Violence Against Women Forums were held in order to engage the community in developing a strategy for responding to violence and increasing safety.

Violence normalized

The report notes that 40 per cent of those using services in the DTES are women, but says the proportion of those services dedicated to women is not comparable.

Violence against women in the DTES has become normalized, Kendall said, and it's time for those who fund the area's social services to look at how they support women's safety.

"We are calling on all funders to require service providers to maintain 40 per cent of their service budget for the well-being of women they serve with a concerted commitment to address violence each and every time," Kate Gibson of WISH Drop-In Centre Society said in a statement.

Those funders include the province and the City of Vancouver.

"I think what the study is telling us all collectively, is this is what to do to maintain the health and safety of all our residents," said Mary Clare Zak, director of social policy with the City of Vancouver.

The coalition has also sent copies of the report to B.C.'s Ministry of Justice and to the Vancouver Police Department.

With files from Jesara Sinclair

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