'We have momentum right now': Holly Hamilton's death sparks calls for change

The tragic death of Holly Hamilton, 29, has added momentum to the fight against gender-based violence, local women’s advocates say.

Holly Hamilton, 29, was found dead in the trunk of her car last Wednesday

A supporter grieved Holly Hamilton's death at a vigil on Wednesday, the day her body was found. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

The tragic death of Holly Hamilton, 29, has lent momentum to the fight against gender-based violence, local women's advocates say.

Her death added a layer of significance to an event at city hall on Saturday to rally for change, equality and inclusive decision-making.

It was held on the anniversary of the 2017 Women's March, which coincided with Donald Trump's inauguration as president of the United States.

Participants took part in a moment of silence and reflection. Proceeds from the "Women's March Forward" event were pledged to Hamilton's family. 

"Violence against women is the most extreme outcome of gender inequality that we face in our communities, in our country and in the world," said Medora Uppal, director of operations for YWCA Hamilton.

"It's a tragedy but it's also an important moment to remember that this is a critical problem that we continue to face."

'We have momentum right now'

Hamilton's death underscored the reality of domestic violence in the city.  It has led to calls for individuals and governments to take steps to prevent similar tragedies in the future for women, trans people and people who are living with disabilities.

"I think we have momentum right now," Uppal said. "How do we capitalize on that?"

Police said Friday that Holly Hamilton was stabbed to death. (Facebook)

Hamilton's ex-boyfriend, Justin Dumpfrey, was charged on Thursday with second-degree murder — a day after her body was found in the trunk of her car in a parking garage in the city's east end.

Dumpfrey is also the father of Hamilton's young daughter.

Police said there had been a documented history of domestic violence in the couple's relationship.

Lenore Lukasik-Foss is director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and Area. She said she's encouraged by the "important dialogue" happening about workplace sexual harassment and violence.

"But I'm concerned that on the ground, the reality of violence against women is still at epidemic levels," she said.

"This is a moment. We have the ear of the community in a really different way. We need to keep up that pressure that stuff needs to change."

What more can be done?

The city has spent almost double what it spent last year on hotels when shelters are full for women and children. And it’s six times what the city spent in 2012. (City of Hamilton Housing Services)

Uppal and Lukasik-Foss said more work needs to be done, including:

  • Appropriate funding for the services already being provided by overtaxed shelters and workers
  • More conversations in schools about healthy relationships and early signs of abuse and violence
  • Increased support for women contemplating leaving, and for those who have left, abusive situations
  • Economic supports for women leaving — affordable housing, employment support

"There are a lot of consequences women face for leaving a partner, especially if they have children," Uppal said, adding that many women find themselves immediately poorer.

Some lose jobs in the transition because their partners stalked them to work, she said.

"We need to be minimizing all the barriers to make the path clear," said Lukasik-Foss.

Women's March Forward: A summit with training, and a rally held Saturday


About the Author

Kelly Bennett

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Kelly Bennett is an award-winning reporter who lives in Hamilton. She grew up in Victoria and covered economics and arts as an investigative reporter in San Diego. She loves digging into great stories, hiking and playing the violin. Drop her a line anytime at kelly.bennett@cbc.ca.