Marchers in Grassy Narrows raise awareness of violence against women
By Alan S. Hale, Kenora Daily Miner and News, November 19, 2013
A group of about 20 women, their children and a few young men marched down the main road in Grassy Narrows First Nation on Monday afternoon, Nov. 18, to raise awareness of the problem of violence against women plaguing their community.
The demonstration was not part of any larger campaign, but was organized by a group of concerned women from the small aboriginal community to raise awareness of the attitudes and beliefs which are leading to the problem.
“We began talking about the way women are treated in the community and we wanted to create awareness and try to create a safe community for women and children,” said Chrissy Swain, one of the original organizers.
“There is still an attitude here that men are superior to women. There’s a lot of abuse and it’s treated like it’s normal, and it shouldn’t be. If a woman is abused, people seem to look the other way.”
According to the Treaty Three Police, Grassy Narrows has some of the highest reported rates of violent crime towards women out of any of the reserve communities in the area. In 2012, the police investigated 15 sexual assaults in the small community and 21 domestic disturbances.
The problem is not by any means limited to Grassy Narrows, nor is Grassy Narrows the worst offender. Treaty Three Police were called to 222 domestic disturbances region-wide in First Nation communities in 2012 and 79 sexual assaults.
“Our communities are small enough that everyone knows who the people doing these things are and nothing ever seems to be done about it because no one ever says anything. So now we have to try to break that silence,” said Swain.
Making sure everybody recognizes that there is a problem is the first step towards solving it and healing as a community, said Swain, which is why they decided to march, chant and drum their way along Grassy Narrows’ main road. The protestors are also planning a poster campaign to keep the issue fresh in people’s minds.
There were signs that people in the community are ready to listen. People in their vehicles honked their approval to the demonstrators, people watched from their house windows and some came outside to join in.
The people of Grassy Narrows are also taking other steps to try to address the problem, such as the establishment last month of both a women’s and a men’s group to provide support for victims of violence and to help inspire change in attitudes.
“The group allows us to try to empower each other to speak out about these things because the women here don’t have supports that other communities might have,” said Swain.