WATCH: Anne Leclair reports on the #jesuisgabrielle relationship violence campaign
MONTREAL — A social media campaign called #jesuisgabrielle kicked off on Monday, aiming to raise awareness about domestic violence among adolescents.
The campaign is inspired by the story of 17-year-old Gabrielle Dufresne-Élie, who was allegedly beaten to death by her 19-year-old ex-boyfriend last June.
Gabrielle’s story hit home for another young Montrealer, who recently escaped a violent relationship.
“I was scared,” said the 18 year old, who doesn’t want to be identified for fear her ex-boyfriend will find her.
“He was on drugs so the minute he didn’t have some he was breaking everything in the house or even trying to take me like a weapon.”
After posting a plea on Facebook, members of her community stepped in to help find her a new, safer home. She is deeply troubled by Gabrielle’s story and feels strongly about the new social media campaign.
“I’m so sad that it happened, but I’m happy it didn’t happen to me” insisted the young woman.
“It could have been me!”
One year ago, 17-year-old Gabrielle’s body was found in an east-end hotel room. Her family has since said she had tried to leave a violent and controlling relationship.
Many hope the campaign created in her name will encourage teenagers to recognize and avoid abusive relationships.
Former Montreal Gazette justice reporter Sue Montgomery is one of many faces of the #jesuisgabrielle campaign, she also spearheaded the #Beenrapedneverreported movement on social media last fall.
“I have two teenagers, and I think part of the problem is they meet people online, that’s their way of meeting,” said Montgomery, who also worries that teens are being educated through pornography, which is more accessible than ever online.
“I think the answer is sex education from a very young age and we don’t have that in Quebec, it’s been cut!” said Montgomery.
The Regroupement des Maisons pour Femmes Victimes de Violence Conjugale estimates that 1 out of 3 women who turn to shelters are between the ages of 18 and 30. That amounts to 2000 women for the year 2014 alone. The Regroupement recently started targeting students with anti-bullying programs in schools.
“Bullying and domestic violence is the same dynamic,” said Kim Cairnduff of the Regroupement.
“It’s a pro-active violence, so the abuser does something to obtain something and he feels entitled, he feels he can do it and he’s not going to get caught.”
Cairnduff said she believes bullies need to face stiffer consequences, and she feels teachers and parents need to be better equipped to help victims identify and leave abusive relationships.
“The victim is scared she feels powerless and controlled because that’s what bullying or domestic violence is all about: one partner wanting to control the other using different methods to control the other,” said Cairnduff.