London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Debbie Ratelle is never going to see the bright smiles of her daughters Ashley and Stephanie Daubs again after their father killed them, and himself, in the ultimate abusive act six years ago.
It is a pain Ratelle said she has to cope with every day, but it is also something that fuels her to bring awareness to the issue of domestic abuse. That awareness was once again in the spotlight — a purple spotlight at that — during the media launch on Friday (Oct. 12) of the third annual Shine the Light on Women Abuse campaign.
Shine the Light, the largest public awareness campaign of the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC), runs through November, which is also Woman Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month across Ontario.
“This campaign means a lot to me. We are the voices of all these people who have lost their lives. We are the ones who must speak out and do something about abuse,” Ratelle said. “It needs to stop. It really does. I was lucky, I got out, but my girls didn’t. So as a community, I would love everyone to stick together and fight for this.”
Ratelle’s words could well have been coming out of Megan Walker’s mouth. Walker, LAWC executive director, said during the launch — held at the centre’s 217 York St. offices — that the need to spread the word about abuse of women and children has never been greater.
“We did have 600 calls over the summer, which is unprecedented, and it is not because there are more cases of abuse, it is because the message is getting out that hope and help is available,” Walker said. “Last year, during the month of November, our service demands increased by 125 per cent. We want women to know there are resources in this community to help them as they live their lives free of violence and abuse.”
The campaign will officially kick off on Nov. 1 with the Lighting of the Tree, in Victoria Park. That is followed by numerous events throughout November, including Purple Night on the Town, Nov. 9, which will see several London restaurants go purple and offer up original purple cocktails.
On Nov. 15, the public is asked to dress up in Wear Purple Day. That event will be followed two days later by a special game by the London Lightning basketball team, which will be dressing in purple as part of the campaign.
As with the London Knights on Nov. 2, and the London Majors earlier this past summer, the Lightning will be doing their part to bring awareness to Shine the Light.
Taylor Brown, general manager of London Lightning, said supporting the campaign was a “no-brainer” and something the entire organization is excited about because it can make a real difference.
“This is something we can actually stop. There are a number of charities, different things we need to help with as citizens, whether it is cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, but this is something we can actually stop right now,” Brown said. “It is important that not only in November, but we cement into our brains that we support this cause year round.”
The participation of the Lightning, indeed all the sports teams, individuals and corporations across the city — such as Planmar Financial Corp, a major sponsor of Shine the Light — is something Ratelle said is key to spreading the awareness message that is key to making a difference.
Walker said it is especially important for men everywhere to step up and be part of the solution.
“We have always said this is not a women’s issue to resolve; it is going to involve men, coming to the table, to hold other men responsible,” Walker said. “And that is what we are seeing and it is really heartwarming for us.”
Also encouraging, Walker said, is how community involvement during Shine the Light continues to grow. That involvement is reflected in all the purple bows, balloons and lights appearing on homes, businesses and even city hall, which will shine a light of its own during November.
Ward 12 Councillor Harold Usher, filling in for Mayor Joe Fontana who was home with an illness, said he is proud the city is doing its part, but he wishes the campaign wasn’t needed at all.
Usher pointed to statistics that show one in four women will be victims of violence, which in London, translates to 13 per cent of the population. Even if the percentage was 0.1 per cent, Usher said, it would mean much work remains to be done.
“I beg you, pass the word along, ask men not to do this. We want to live in a much more pure society. We have to reduce this little, by little, by little, until it reaches zero,” Usher said. “I ask you to continue wearing the (purple) ribbon so it will be what I call an elevator speech. People will ask why you are wearing the ribbon and so you can then continue to spread the message.”
For more information on Shine the Light on Women Abuse, a list of events taking place during the campaign or the services available through London Abused Women’s Centre visit www.lawc.on.ca.
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