92% of homeless women in Waterloo Region experience violence at least once a week: study

Nick Westoll / File / Global News

Ninety-two per cent of those who participated in a study on violence against women experiencing homelessness in Waterloo Region experienced violence on a weekly basis.

The report, which is co-authored by YW Kitchener-Waterloo and Community Justice Initiatives, is part of Project Willow, which is studying violence among women in the area.

The authors spoke with 61 women who are currently or had recently experienced homelessness, with 44 per cent saying that they experience violence daily.

“To think that experiencing violence daily, from multiple perpetrators over a variety of community settings is a reality for some women is heart-wrenching, but also frustrating,” stated Jennifer Gordon, Director of Advocacy for YW Kitchener-Waterloo, who is also one of the report’s authors.

“As a community we have much more to give to support and protect women and prevent this.”

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Read more: More public education needed on intimate partner violence in Ontario, Borutski inquest hears

The study also found that 96 per cent of the violence was verbal, 79 per cent was emotional/mental, and 63 per cent was financial while 54 per cent was physical violence.

Eighty-three per cent of those who participated in the Project Willow study said that they had remained in a violent housing situation as it seemed a safer option than being homeless in Waterloo Region.

A further 65 per cent said that they have avoided accessing services and supports because they were worried they might cross paths with an abuser or experience violence.

The report says that 75 per cent of respondents said they were using substances to cope with violent experience in the past and the trauma which they have been left to cope with.

Read more: More than 60 per cent of Indigenous women have faced violence in Canada: report

Those who participated in the Project Willow study are hoping to see changes in attitude and approach to women’s shelter which creates safety for women looking to rebuild their lives, better collaboration among systems as well as reconsidering housing priority list policies with the aim of keeping violence prevention in mind.

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“Where we have an opportunity now is to use this research and collected information to make more informed and better decisions that create systems of support for women who are experiencing homelessness that actually reflect their needs,” Gordon said.

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