November is Shine the Light on Woman Abuse month in my home town of London, Ontario. I was recently asked to write a story about this year’s campaign – which put me in touch with Lynn Blackburn.
Lynn’s sister, Paula Gallant, was murdered by her husband in 2005, shortly before their daughter’s first birthday.
Many people think it must be difficult to interview people who have lost a family member or friend. But I have found the opposite is usually true. Most people are eager to speak about a loved one – to share stories and let others know how that person made a lasting impact on the world they left behind.
Lynn was no different. Unfortunately, I couldn’t include most of what she told me in my newspaper article. So she gave me permission to share our interview through my blog – in honour of her sister, Paula – and all women who experience women abuse.
What would you like Londoners to know about your sister, Paula Gallant?
Paula was a woman who loved every aspect of her life and lived each and every day to the fullest. She had an incredible smile, kind heart, generous spirit and a wonderful sense of humor. She had a presence when she walked into a room and people just naturally gravitated towards her positive and energized personality.
Her sweet baby was the brightest joy in her life and her love and commitment to her family and friends was evident in all she did.
Paula was a born educator and her passion for culture and adventure was always incorporated in her daily teachings, both in and out of the classroom. In life she touched the hearts of many and in death, her legacy has left meaning and purpose.
Why did your family decide to honour her memory by taking part in this year’s Shine the Light campaign?
It is so important for people to realize Paula could have been their daughter, sister, friend, their children’s soccer coach or the lady at the grocery store. Men’s violence against women does not discriminate and no one is immune.
We need to help people understand this is a real issue in our communities and our family could never have imagined it happening to us, to our sister, but it can and it did.
It is also important to understand there are cases where physical abuse does not exist, such as Paula’s case. They were no warning signs, no known triggers, no ability for her to understand or predict the risks.
Although Paula’s voice was physically silenced through murder, our participation in events like this give Paula a voice, in the hopes that we can help drive change and perhaps save a woman’s life.
What would you like Canadians, both women and men, to know about women abuse?
The statics pertaining to intimate partner violence and physical and sexual abuse in Canada are staggering.
Prior to Paula’s murder, we had no understanding of how prevalent men’s violence against women was nor would we have known there were so many agencies, organization, professional and volunteers working tirelessly to try and end violence.
Unfortunately, it took a personal experience for me to fully understand the scope of this issue and that we all have a role to play in working as a society to end this.
All women deserve to live freely and peacefully without abuse. I would challenge both men and women to ask themselves, if this was their daughter, their sister, what would they do different than they are today? My hope is that if we can create a zero-tolerant society against drinking and driving, then I have to believe that one day women will live peacefully and freely without men’s violence and abuse.
You can read my story on the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) 2016 Shine the Light on Woman Abuse Campaign here.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the LAWC website.