Battered Women’s Support Services represents those who stay silent

The organization's poster campaign reminds passersby of a single startling statistic.


There’s a startling number that’s worth remembering as we begin the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the period stretching from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25 to World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

For every woman who reports a non-spousal sexual assault, there are nineteen women who don’t. For comparison, one in three incidents involving other types of crime are reported, according to Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey on Victimization.

The fact that so few women feel able to report their assaults is the focus of a poster campaign created by Rethink for Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), a Vancouver-based organization that provides support for women who have experienced abuse and whose 40th anniversary falls during this year’s 16 Days of Activism.

The campaign consists of a poster of a woman who has reported non-spousal sexual assault – followed by posters features silhouettes of nineteen additional women, representing all those who do not report their assaults to police.


The goal was to find a “cost-effective” way of getting BWSS’s message out across different parts of the city, noted Rethink partner and CD Hans Thiessen in a release. The scale of the execution, he said, makes it difficult for people to ignore.

“Using posters to illustrate this startling fact was a simple way to talk about a serious subject,” added Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director at BWSS. “This was our way of getting people to think critically about violence against women and to enable survivors to know that there are avenues for them to access support, outside of the justice system, and that we’re a place for healing and we advocate for those who have experienced trauma or harassment.”

To kick-off the more than two-week-long annual awareness push, BWSS is hosting an event at Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre on Nov. 25 that includes a talk with Tarana Burke, an advocate for survivors of sexual violence who is credited with helping to launch the “MeToo” movement.