“I have struggled with drafting this statement as Atira fully supports and recognizes the importance of the protest at Oppenheimer Park, and people’s right to safe, adequate and affordable housing. That said, the violence in and around the park has become impossible to ignore, especially as it relates to women. It is no coincidence that we decided to make this statement this week – Prevention of Violence Against Women Week. Atira Women’s Resource Society operates nine women-only programs in immediate proximity to Oppenheimer Park.
Over the past year, women have shared devastating stories about the violence they experience in the park. These include stories of rape, sexual assault, assault, being robbed, threatened, and coerced into doing things they have no interest in doing. Some have partners in the park and disclose being assaulted by their partners. There have been times when the violence has spilled into our buildings making women unsafe in their own homes.
We have witnessed women’s injuries including slashings, blunt trauma (e.g. assault with a baseball bat) and other forms of physical assault. Women are afraid to report to police as they are afraid of reprisals. Many no longer enter the park, one of only two green spaces in the Downtown Eastside. While we had all hoped for a resolution before now, one that included housing for everyone, we firmly believe that the current situation continues at the expense of women’s safety. This is not now, never was and must never be acceptable.”