Lanark County ralliers call for more resources to fight rural domestic violence

A Lanark County organization for survivors of domestic abuse held its annual Take Back the Night walk amid news of attempted murder charges in Mississippi Mills.

Annual protest coincided with news of Almonte man being arrested for attempted murder

About 50 people marched through downtown Carleton Place during the annual Lanark County Take Back the Night walk Thursday evening. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Organizers of a march in Lanark County denouncing violence against women say news of an attempted murder charge was a reminder of the persistence of gender-based violence. 

Erin Lee, executive director of Lanark County Interval House, said she was "deeply saddened" to hear about the latest report of violence.

"Certainly, for us, we're not surprised that lethal violence is still happening in our community," she said Thursday evening during the organization's annual Take Back the Night walk.

On Wednesday, Ontario Provincial Police charged a 73-year-old man with attempted murder, uttering threats and overcoming resistance by strangling, choking or suffocating a person. A woman had been taken to hospital with serious, non-life threatening injuries.

As Lee opened the Thursday night rally, she also noted the recent second anniversary of the killing of three women in and around Wilno, Ont. The trial of the man accused of those murders is scheduled to begin next month.

Erin Lee, executive director of Lanark County Interval House, said more needs to be done to end violence against women. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

'A lot of women are still dying'

Tracy Kwissa, a survivor advocate who escaped an abusive marriage to return to her hometown in Lanark County, said the march is an important way to remind people that domestic violence is still a big issue.

"A lot of women are still dying and that's really frustrating for me because I feel like more change should be happening, certainly more quickly than it has been," Kwissa said.

"It's not just an eastern Ontario problem, but it's definitely more pronounced in a rural community."

Thursday night's march included a vigil for people who have died as result domestic or partner violence. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Lanark County Interval House has worked with partners in Renfrew County and Lennox and Addington to hold rural forums on domestic violence and increase awareness about resources.

The organization has also launched a "See It, Name it, Change It" campaign to encourage people to confront domestic abuse and abusers — as well as support people affected by it.

It's part of a larger push that needs to include government and the justice system as well, Lee said.

"There's never a quick response from our government to respond to the need for additional resources. And that's why we continue to advocate and continue to tell more people that we need to push the envelope," she said.

"We have failed. That system is continuing to fail women and I think the Wilno murders, the other murders that have happened in rural eastern Ontario, speak to that."

Ending the cycle

Resources need to be in place to make sure referrals and calls for help don't fall through the cracks, she said.

"We're not going to end the cycle by not ensuring that our justice system and all of our systems are working together to suggest to perpetrators of violence that it is taken seriously, that there are consequences to perpetrating violence against women."

Lee said the upcoming trail for the Wilno murders will be a difficult time for people who've survived domestic and partner violence, and that agencies across eastern Ontario will be supporting each other through it.

Participants threw flowers in the Mississippi River as part of the vigil for women killed due to domestic or partner violence. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)