Arts Student Body Council hosts Valentine’s Day campaign to combat domestic violence

Event to support local non-profit that provides services for women and children fleeing abuse

Graphic by Kelly Campbell.

The University of Manitoba’s Arts Student Body Council (ASBC) is lifting the veil on domestic violence for Valentine’s Day.

On Tuesday, the ASBC is partnering with the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, the Womyn’s Centre, the Justice for Women student group, and a handful of other student organizations in a day-long event aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence.

Allison Kilgour, an ASBC senator and a lead organizer, said activities will range from educational to interactive, including a fundraising effort to support Winnipeg’s Alpha House Project – a non-profit organization that provides services for women and children fleeing abusive relationships.

She said hosting the event on Valentine’s Day is a deliberate attempt to bring attention to the reality that not all relationships should be commemorated.

“We thought it would be a little provocative – a little kind of pushing the norm – to have an event on the very stereotypical day of celebrating love and relationships to discuss the fact that not all relationships should be celebrated and that domestic violence is a huge issue, not just in Canada, but around the world,” she said.

Kilgour noted that a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six days in Canada, a statistic she called overwhelming.

“So we just kind of thought, not only is it a good time in the semester to plan something like this, but the fact that it is on Valentine’s Day is going to really get people thinking ‘I need to be cautious of my relationship,’” she said.

All proceeds from a bake sale hosted by Justice for Women in the Armes building and an ASBC button and ribbon sale in the Fletcher Argue building will go toward Alpha House. There will also be a number of interactive tabling campaigns set up in University Centre.

Liz Millward, an associate professor of women’s and gender studies, will also be presenting a lecture examining domestic violence in lesbian relationships at the Fireside Lounge at 1 p.m.

Cherie Hennessey, executive director of Alpha House Project, welcomed the support from the university community.

“I think the whole day is fabulous,” she said. “I think that it is very important to be raising the awareness of domestic violence, the impacts on society, on women, children – any way we can break the cycle and getting the word out.”

Hennessey echoed Kilgour in noting the significance of planning such an event on Valentine’s Day.

“When you think of Valentine’s Day, you think about love and it coincides, right, because there’s lot of people who don’t understand that they are even being abused,” she said. “So [it is] recognizing that just because they are nice on one day doesn’t mean that it’s okay what they are doing.”

Beyond providing shelter and housing to women and children transitioning away from violence, Alpha House provides c ounselling to women and age-appropriate children to help build back self-confidence and self-reliance so they can live independently.

Hennessey noted the shelter also helps clients navigate the legal system and find suitable housing and community supports.

Kilgour said the long-term approach adopted by Alpha House is the main reason the proceeds from the event will be donated to the organization.

“It’s kind of a second-chance organization that helps women get their lives back on track and gives them an anonymous place to do that,” she said.

The event is also being supported by the Women’s and Gender Studies Students’ Association, the University of Manitoba Aboriginal Students’ Association, the student chapter of UManitoba, and the University of Manitoba Muslim Student Association.

Hennessey said the proceeds will go toward lifting the spirits of the families at Alpha House.

“We like to do activities for the families,” she said.

“The spring break is coming up [and] our families don’t have a lot of money, they’re all low-income. Even taking them on an outing is something they normally don’t get to do.”