Over lunch time Friday, a group of close to 40 people gathered for a walk down Scott St. to raise awareness for domestic violence and abuse, support survivors, and to remember victims lost, and those who are still struggling.
The event was organized by Alyssa Strachan. Strachan has been a victim services volunteer since 2015, and part of the board of directors for the Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope in Atikokan. Strachan and her family are victims of domestic violence which is why she wanted to organize the event.
“I saw this walk done in Calgary when I was really young and I’ve always wanted to bring it here, and I was just never in a position where I could, or that I was ready to speak out about my own [history with] violence,” Strachan said. “So I’m just in a position now where I was just ready to get my community involved.”
Strachan added there were others who walked elsewhere who didn’t want to be part of the larger group.
Non-profit groups from throughout the area were on site to hand out information about violence and the available services for victims. Treaty 3 Police, Metis Nation, Salvation Army and other organizations were there, among others.
The stories were shared, anonymously, from survivors of domestic violence. June Caul, mayor of Fort Frances also addressed the gathering.
Caul mentioned that her morning Bible reading for the day included Colossians 3:19 which says “Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Caul says she felt like there was a reason that was part of her reading for the day.
Poignantly, Caul herself told the group her own story of domestic abuse.
“I’ve been a victim of domestic abuse myself,” Caul said, “ I haven’t shared that with a bunch of people that I don’t know like I am today, but this hits my heart deeply.”
Caul counts herself among the lucky women whose lives are stable enough that they can leave abusive relationships, but says that also causes her some guilt, even years later.
“To this day I still hold guilt in my heart for breaking up my family even though I knew it was the best thing to do,” Caul said. “The guilt of breaking up your family is often one of the reasons women tell themselves to stay, and they hope things get better.”
Strachan says it was very moving to see someone who is an authority figure like Caul share a story of abuse.
“It’s very impactful to see a woman who is in power go through the same kind of story as you or to have experience with domestic violence,” Strachan said. “To share her story with a bunch of strangers.”
Strachan hopes seeing someone like the mayor will encourage more people to share their stories as the event comes back around in the future.
After the remarks, the group walked down Scott St. from Rainy River Square to Safeway and back. The group was greeted with horn honking support by drivers on the road and Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre provided lunch.
Strachan hopes to keep the event happening on an annual basis.
“I hope it just keeps getting bigger every year, this year with COVID it’s especially hard,” Strachan said. “We’re just hoping it gets bigger and better and more community members join and keep doing it.”