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Shine the Light campaign more important than ever amid restrictions

In a year when everyone has been stuck inside, it's more important than ever to shine a light on abuse against women.

That's the message of this year's “Shine the Light” campaign, the annual event that works to raise awareness of and against woman abuse. Initiated by the London Abused Women's Centre in London, Ont. and handled locally by Riverside Community Counselling Services, a program of Riverside Health Care (RHC), in conjunction with other community partners, the campaign recognizes November as woman abuse awareness and prevention month and usually features a number of community events to spread the word.

As part of this year's campaign, Riverside Community Counselling Services's community family violence counsellor Jacquee Loerzel said that they will be recognizing November 13 as “Wear Purple Day” as a means for the public to show their support, along with a few other community initiatives.

“The campaign's signature colour is purple and it represents courage, survival and honour,” Loerzel said.

“We're hoping that people can wear purple and decorate in purple for the month of November just to help us stand in solidarity with those women who have lived the experience. We also have a couple of local businesses that are helping us. So 807 & Co. Boutique is doing a little earring campaign, and Curvy Chick is helping us out as well, they're doing a 'buy one, donate one' and Oh Boy Sweets is doing a cookie drive. It's fantastic.”

Loerzel said 807 & Co. Boutique and Curvy Chick both approached Community Counselling with offers to help, which goes a long way in helping to spread the overall message of the campaign.

“To have these women and their organizations really support what we do, really supports to spread the message along the way as well, and we really are so grateful for their support,” she said.

All of the proceeds raised from these businesses' initiatives will stay local and go towards the sexual assault department at Riverside Health Care. The public is also invited to make donations directly to the Riverside Foundation for Health Care and to put up one of the Shine the Light campaign posters in their window or place of work in recognition of the campaign and woman abuse awareness and prevention month.

Loerzel said that the particular circumstances of this year have made the Shine the Light campaign more important than ever as many women who live in abusive relationships have been effectively locked in with their abuser because of COVID restrictions.

“It's especially important this year because a lot of the voices and people are really a lot more silenced this year, having to be at home with their significant other,” she explained.

“For those people who are in abusive relationships, it has been more difficult to access resources. We're finding what people are experiencing, there is greater risk of and instances of domestic violence happening with the stay at home orders and all of that kind of thing, so it has been a really difficult year for those people who are experiencing woman abuse.”

In addition to the town of Fort Frances raising the Shine the Light campaign flag at the civic centre on Monday afternoon, another local landmark has been decorated in order to continue to raise awareness throughout the month.

“As part of our partnership [with the town], we did ask for some approval to decorate the town square as well,” Loerzel said.

“We did get that approval and went ahead and decorated the town square. We're hoping to maybe add to it as the month goes on.”

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