Let's put a stop to violence against young women

When is enough really enough?

Three young women under 22 years of age, three different cities in the Lower Mainland, less than a month apart and all casualties of extreme violence. What is happening in our communities? Why isn’t anyone doing anything?

With all the recent news of violence against young women I started to acknowledge that I’ve had enough, both personally and professionally.

I’ve had enough of hearing stories like that of Ashley Machisknic who was the 22 year old young woman “suspected” of being thrown out of a window at the Regent Hotel due to a drug debt. And Laura Szendrei of Delta who at 15 years old was murdered after being brutally beaten in broad daylight. And stories like the 16 year old girl who was drugged and brutalized by a group of boys at a party in Maple Ridge and then humiliated on Facebook when the video went viral.

But, despite these tragedies, I am more passionate than ever about the opportunities for young women to be free. It is time to start sharing what possibilities are out there.  Not only to intervene, but also to prevent. 

My personal journey into understanding these issues that girls face has obviously been life-long. I’m an average girl, from an average family, raised in an average neighborhood. But I’ve had an uphill battle with varying degrees of violence, both internally and externally, my entire life.

Haven’t most people to some degree? Whether it be bullying, negative self-thoughts, body image issues, or some other form of self-harm or abuse, we’ve all experienced it. Some of us carry those scars with us for life, some get help, and some don’t have the chance or resources to make the choice. They leave this world and those left behind feel a great sense of loss and pain.

My adolescence wasn’t peachy by any means. I faced issues of “fitting in” as well as cultural divisions. I chose some risky directions but I was lucky enough to overcome them thanks to adults who chose to step in and to some peers who stepped up to tell me things didn’t have to go in this direction. Choices aren’t choices until we believe we have them and want them bad enough to make the leap of faith.

Through my major life shifts and education I’ve equipped myself with the tools to do the work I do now and do it powerfully.

But it hasn’t been easy.

I’ve worked with young women who have been in similar circumstances as Ashley, Laura, and the young woman in Maple Ridge. Many have fallen through the gaps in services but some were lucky enough to have programs that allowed them the space to discover their options in life and they have made major life transitions.

Although some life experiences are worth the struggle and allow for growth and understanding, many cause unnecessary hardship. Instead, we need to focus on prevention and developing the right programs so we can intervene when needed most.

Thank you to those who stood up for me. You were like rays of sunshine. I am now able to offer similar opportunities to others and help them build the strength, character and courage necessary to give back to their communities.

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Loretta will be blogging for VO about her work as Executive Director of the Passion Foundation, an organization that aims to support young women by helping them step away from violence.

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