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North Van bus stop stunt shines a light on abusive relationships

Battered Women’s Support Services advertisement part of larger campaign

Some North Vancouver bus travellers who were recently waiting for their ride had the opportunity to witness what a woman waiting out an abusive partner might look like.

Earlier this month Battered Women’s Support Services, a Vancouver-based organization that provides education, advocacy and support to help eliminate violence against women, installed an interactive transit shelter “advertisement” at a bus stop at Lonsdale and 27th Street.

“You look through the peephole and you see a hallway and an abusive partner coming in, banging on the door demanding entry, and yelling,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director at Battered Women’s.

“We do a number of different things each year for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is Nov. 25. We do an annual campaign, so every year we do a stunt like this or have a video or have some activity that draws attention in this way.”

The purpose of the interactive advertisement, according to MacDougall, was to simulate the experience of being in a domestic violence situation. In this case, said MacDougall, the interaction didn’t involve physical violence, but still depicted a very common form of abuse.

“It’s a simulation of what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship. I think in general people are so disconnected with what it actually feels like. In this case it’s not about physical violence, it’s not about being hit necessarily, it’s about someone banging on a door and yelling and demanding entry, which is routine,” said MacDougall. “This is an opportunity for people to experience that – to actually be on the other side of the door.”

A transit user observes the pre-recorded scene through a peephole at a bus stop at Lonsdale and 27th Street. - photo supplied Battered women’s support services

Many people observed the one-day transit shelter stunt, which occurred Nov. 2, and those that consented had their reactions filmed while they put an eye to the peephole and got a visceral sense of what partner abuse could look like.

The filmed reactions will be used as Battered Women’s kicks off its annual campaign to raise awareness for gender-based violence later this week, encouraging the public to donate and learn about taking action to end violence against women and girls.

Founded in 1979, Battered Women’s Support Services responded to more than 11,000 requests for services in 2016, according to a recent report.

MacDougall described abusive relationships and violence against women as an epidemic, with many women in Metro Vancouver, including the North Shore, affected by it every day.

More than 30,000 women and children are affected by intimate partner violence in B.C. every year, according to the Battered Women’s website.

“On average, every six days in Canada a woman is killed by her male partner and that statistic is really important because for everyone that is killed there are tens of thousands more that are living in fear and are navigating abusive relationships and experiencing things not unlike what you see when you look through the peephole,” she said.

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