Survivors of domestic abuse and their allies march in Winnipeg demonstration
Participants urge victims, bystanders to speak out and get help
About 50 people, mostly women and children, gathered as the sun was setting in Winnipeg's North End Thursday to show the rest of the city life gets better on the other side of violence.
The second annual End the Silence, Stop The Violence march was organized by Wahbung Abinoonjiiag, a charity that works with children and families to end domestic abuse.
For Sonya Chesworth and her two daughters, the cause is personal.
Three years ago, Chesworth was considering dropping out of school due to a conflict with her ex-partner about childcare. She reached out to her academic liaison who referred her to Wahbung Abinoonjiiag.
Through that connection, everything changed in her life.
"I knew something was wrong in my life I just didn't know what it was," Chesworth said.
Chesworth looks back and sees she was in a "really bad place." She was physically, mentally and financially abused by her partner, she said.
"I like to say I'm a survivor. Three-year survivor, lifetime warrior. I'm still battling, you know, but I do it with affirmation. I know my place and I know where I need to be."
Chesworth has since graduated and is now working as a medical lab assistant, supporting her two daughters, ages 11 and 7. She credits Wahbung Abinoonjiiag with providing the support she needed to rebuild her life.
"They helped me become the person that I wanted to be again," she said.
Front lines of domestic violence
Rochelle Squires, Manitoba's minister in charge of the status of women, spoke to the participants and thanked Wahbung Abinoonjiiag for the work they do on the "front lines of domestic violence."
"They truly are angels on earth," she said.
The Progressive Conservatives announced Thursday the government will be giving $20,000 to the charity this year to help train staff in supporting survivors of domestic abuse who are also struggling with addiction.
"We know that support for people afflicted with addictions is really integral," Squires said.
The minister said there are services available for women who are dealing with domestic abuse across Manitoba.
For Chesworth, despite the assistance she has received, she sees major gaps in aid for women being abused at home.
She said the hands of police are often tied, and described the court system "a joke" for for domestic abuse victims.
"The city still has a long way to come in helping domestic violence survivors."
Anyone in Manitoba can call 1-877-977-0007 or TTY 1-888-987-2829 for confidential information on domestic violence. For people in immediate danger, call 911.