By Sarah Seeley
Feb. 12, 2014
The cold weather did not stop 150 Islanders from gathering at Province House for the fifth annual Walk in Silence for Victims of Violence on Feb. 12.
The walk began in front of Province House and ended at city hall. Participants wore purple clothing and ribbons in support of the victims of family violence.
Community Service Minister Valerie Docherty said when she sees purple it’s more than just a pretty colour.
“Some of us are wearing purple on the outside, but it’s also about the purple we have on the inside.”
Since 2011, there have been 373 reported cases of family violence and about 10 reports to Children’s Services. However, the number of people suffering abuse has risen to about 1,000 and only a quarter of victims call the police.
UPEI psychology professor Philip Smith kicked off the event saying the walk is to break the silence of people living in abusive situations.
“The walk of silence is to give a voice to the victims behind the statistics.”
Smith said the walk is a starting point for building respectful communities and families.
“Our walk is a time of hope for the change our work will surely bring.”
Nine red silhouette cut outs were set up around the steps of Province House. They represented the women who were murdered as a result of family violence. There were plaques on the silhouettes telling the stories of each woman.
There was another red silhouette representing the “silent witness” of domestic violence.
Charlottetown deputy police chief Richard Collins said he was happy with the turnout, especially considering the cold temperatures.
“This was close to people’s hearts so it kept them warm.”
Domestic violence is engrained in society and it’s not going away despite the awareness and education, said Collins.
“I think people have to break that cycle.”
He also said it is important to keep the issue in high profile.
“Everyone in this room doesn’t want the issue to be forgotten.”
Docherty said she was also surprised with the turnout.
“During the walk, I turned around and couldn’t believe the crowd.”
She couldn’t believe the amount of violence on the Island.
“It’s so hard to believe in our province that we have the abuse that’s going on.”
Docherty often raises awareness about domestic violence.
“I can speak about it any chance I get.”
Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee said the Mayor’s Purple Ribbon Task Force group has made a major impact to diminish family violence on P.E.I.
The group was formed in 2001 when domestic violence case ended in tragedy. The task force’s goal is to raise awareness about family violence and consult with Lee about matters concerning domestic violence. They were the organizers of the Walk in Silence and P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Week.
Lee couldn’t measure the impact of the task force, but he said it is an important organization.
“If the task force has helped one family get out of an abusive situation, I would say it’s money well spent.”
Lee said the walk was a step forward to diminishing family violence.
“Unfortunately we can’t go back and erase history, but we can make a difference going forward.”