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Domestic violence condemned on special quilt made by survivors

A special quilt bearing the stories of women who have survived domestic violence was unveiled at Hamilton city hall on Wednesday.

Hamilton Woman Abuse Working Group calls violence a 'frightening reality' in city

For more than 20 years, Mary Dayman suffered both physical and emotional abuse at home in silence. On Wednesday at Hamilton City Hall she spoke out forcefully, calling on the public to recognize the horror of domestic violence and put a stop to it.

Dayman addressed a room of reporters and supporters at a special ceremony held by the Woman Abuse Working Group (WAWG), a coalition of more than 20 agencies who aim to end violence against women, where a special quilt featuring messages by abused women was unveiled. November is Woman Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario. 

When I look at this I just feel like there's hope in it. The public can see this. They can relate to us- Mary Dayman, Woman Abuse Working Group

As a member of WAWG’s survivors’ committee, Dayman helped the 84 abused women who made the quilt fill our their squares, an emotional process that she said brought up painful feelings of shame and anger but hopefully allowed the women to recapture some of the confidence stolen from them by abuse.

 "When I look at this I just feel like there's hope in it. The public can see this. They can relate to us," Dayman said.

Mary Dayman, a member of the Woman Abuse Working Group of Hamilton's survivors' committee, spoke out forcefully against domestic violence at city hall on Wednesday. (John Rieti/CBC)
The quilt is set to go on display throughout the community over the coming year. WAWG organizers are hoping it will raise awareness and let women know there are avenues for support.

Four years ago, WAWG's survivors' committee made up of about 10 women was the first place Dayman ever spoke out about the abuse she suffered, which began just months after her marriage and continued even after she had a child.

"It's the only place I've ever felt comfortable speaking about abuse ... it's something I've always kept to myself," Dayman said, adding a sense of shame made her hide everything from her family.

She’s worked on the committee ever since to support other survivors who are facing serious challenges relating to housing, raising children, going back to school and making enough money to keep things going.

Natasha Dobler, WAWG’s chair, warned all of Hamilton’s shelters supporting abused women are full every night.

Dobler called domestic violence a "frightening reality," something Hamilton Police Chief Glenn de Caire backed up with some harrowing statistics.

Domestic violence remains the number one call for police service in the city, even though police know it’s an under-reported crime, de Caire said. Police statistics estimate there are some 200 victims per month.

"It is absolutely the goal to reduce the amount of domestic violence," de Caire said.

Even Mayor Bob Bratina shared a personal story of helping a former colleague who had suffered domestic violence.

The public needs to know domestic violence "isn't just a rough night for somebody," Bratina said.

Event strikes hopeful note

Hamilton Police Chief Glenn de Caire said his force is committed to reducing domestic violence in the city. (John Rieti/CBC)
Though each speaker touched on the pain of domestic violence, each closed on a positive note.

De Caire pointed out that reporting of domestic violence was up 9 per cent this year, while reporting of sexual assault rose 22 per cent — figures he said mean women are more confident coming to police.

Val Sadler, also of WAWG, said she's encouraged by the level of discussion about domestic violence taking place online, notably in social media.

"I feel like there's a shift going on," Sadler said.

Dayman echoed that sentiment, pointing to the public outrage that cost the NFL's Ray Rice his job after video emerged of him knocking his wife unconscious in an elevator.

"As the consequences grow, (domestic violence) is going to be seen in a different light," she said. 

Dayman also said it's men who don't abuse women who can make a difference. Women have been speaking out on this issue "forever," she said. "We need men to stand up."

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