Shine the Light campaign details dangers of coercive control

Shine the Light on woman abuse campaign artwork in a park. CREDIT: BEN HARRIETHA
The campaign launched officially on Nov. 1 with the lighting of the tree of hope in Victoria Park and will run until the end of the month.

The London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) has launched its 13th annual Shine the Light On Women’s Abuse campaign. The focus this year is on coercive control and filicide.

“The severity of the abuse that women and girls are subjected to as well as the urgent need for support due to housing and food insecurity continues to increase,” Jennifer Dunn, executive director of LAWC said. “So every November, we raise awareness. We shine the light on women abuse by turning London purple.”

The campaign started in 2010, after former board member Dana Johnson visited New York and saw Manhattan lit up purple for women abuse prevention.

The Fanshawe College Student Success and Here For You logos are shown. A young woman is smiling, sitting at a desk. Text states: A new semester is here. Access student services! We are here for you.

“She truly liked the idea and she brought it back to the London Abused Women’s Centre, where we then created a campaign that was meeting the needs of our community,” current campaign coordinator, Fabienne Haller explained. “The London community has really taken the campaign to heart. Thanks to the incredible support, we’ve grown this campaign from the grassroot level to the international level.”

This year’s campaign will be honouring Jennifer Kagan-Viater and her late daughter, Keira. Keira was killed by her father in a murder-suicide in February 2020. She was four years old.

“Violence cost my daughter, Keira, her life. She was an innocent victim to a deranged predator and was failed by the very systems who were supposed to protect her,” Kagan-Viater said. “We are fighting a Sisyphean battle against institutions that are embedded with systemic misogyny unwilling to see the suffering of abused women and children, and who will not willingly reform themselves.”

Kagan-Viater, a physician, and her husband Phillip Viater, a family law lawyer, have campaigned behind bill C-233, which contains Keira’s Law. The bill was supported by all parties in the House of Commons and has now passed on to the Senate, where at the time of writing, a second reading is in progress.

“Bill C-233 has two parts. The ‘Keira’s Law’ piece will raise the level of education on domestic violence, and coercive control for federally appointed judges,” Kagan-Viater explained.

The second part of the bill is giving judges the option of electronic monitoring bracelets as a condition of bail orders. Philip Viater added, “we need a culture shift in not only the law, but the Child Protection Services systems as well.”

The campaign launched officially on Nov. 1 with the lighting of the tree of hope in Victoria Park. The campaign will run until the end of the month, with Nov. 15 being “Wear Purple Day” to show support for those suffering from partner abuse.

Haller added that students should make sure to participate in the campaign.

“Students are the future, and having an open mind about these things comes easier to young people,” she said. “Older generations can have a harder time noticing when a relationship is abusive or controlling.”

Kagan-Viater added that students being aware of intimate partner violence and coercive control will only be a net positive. “One in four women is affected by or is experiencing male violence. It’s hugely important for the student population to have a sense of what’s going on behind closed doors and also what help might be available. Quite frankly, even if they don’t think it affects them now, if they start taking steps now, then eventually we’ll get that culture shift.”

More information on the Shine the Light campaign can be found on the LAWC website. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual or gender-based violence contact LAWC at 519-432-2204 or the Abused Women’s Helpline at 519-642-3000.