July 8, 2022 – Victims are not responsible for the violent actions of the perpetrators who harmed them, says Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Wellness Within, and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).
Over the next few weeks, the Mass Casualty Commission will hear about the role gender-based violence played in the killings of 22 people, including a pregnant woman, in Nova Scotia on April 18-19, 2020.
As part of this work, Lisa Banfield will testify before the Commission. Ms. Banfield was the common law spouse of the perpetrator of the mass casualty. Throughout their relationship, the perpetrator controlled, emotionally abused, and violently assaulted Ms. Banfield. Despite this, Ms. Banfield has often wrongly faced blame for the violence unleashed by the perpetrator in April 2020.
“In the face of unfathomable trauma and loss, looking for someone to blame is understandable,” says Erin Breen, Counsel for Avalon, LEAF, and Wellness Within. “But Lisa Banfield is not responsible for the perpetrator’s violence.”
Victim blaming is far too common. One in five survivors of sexual assault has been made to feel responsible for their victimization, most often by the perpetrator, their family, or their friends. Victim blaming is also deeply harmful. Blaming survivors tells them that they are responsible for the abuse that they have faced. It discourages people in abusive relationships from seeking help. It also discourages those who witness violence from stepping in.
Avalon, LEAF, and Wellness Within call on all members of the media to responsibly and accurately report on Ms. Banfield’s testimony and experiences. To assist, we have put together an outline of key Commission documents. We have also compiled a list of resources on gender-based violence and the dangers of victim blaming (see below).
“Put simply, the victim blaming Ms. Banfield is being subjected to is rooted in misogyny,” says Breen. “Lisa was, without a doubt, another victim of the perpetrator’s violence. Her experiences clearly point to the broader pattern of intimate-partner violence and mass killings being closely linked.”
For media commentary, please contact:
Counsel for Avalon, LEAF, and Wellness Within
Trauma Therapist, Avalon Sexual Assault Centre
Avalon Fact Sheet on Victim Blaming
Women’s Shelters Canada, “Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission: When Will We Stop Blaming Survivors?”
The Pixel Project, “16 Ideas and Actions To Avoid and Stop Victim Blaming”
The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, “Victim Blaming in Canada”
Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, “Victim Blaming”
About the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) is a national not-for-profit that works to advance the equality rights of women, girls, trans, and non-binary people in Canada through litigation, law reform, and public legal education. Since 1985, LEAF has intervened in more than 100 cases that have helped shape the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To find out more, visit www.leaf.ca.
About Avalon Sexual Assault Centre
Avalon Centre aspires to a world in which individuals are empowered and mobilized to share responsibility in creating communities free from sexualized violence and abuse. Avalon Centre provides a leadership role in raising awareness, supporting those who have experienced sexualized violence, and influencing social and systemic change.
Using an intersectional feminist lens to analyze and respond to sexualized violence/abuse and other forms of violence and oppression, Avalon Centre offers a continuum of specialized services, with an emphasis on support, counselling, education, immediate medical care, forensic evaluation, leadership, and advocacy. Our services are available to those affected by all forms of sexualized violence/abuse, their families, the general public, and other support/service providers.
About Wellness Within: An Organization for Health and Justice
Wellness Within is a registered non-profit organization that advocates for prison abolition and provides support to women, gender diverse and trans individuals who have experienced criminalization and are pregnant or parenting young children in Nova Scotia. The group began working together in 2012 and we served our first incarcerated client in 2014. WW’s 90+ members include formerly incarcerated people, doulas, health care providers, lawyers, students, researchers, and mentors. WW volunteers have security clearance to provide support at the Nova Institution for Women Federal Prison, the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility Provincial jail, the Nova Scotia Youth Facility and in the community. WW works in partnership with community and advocacy organizations across Nova Scotia. WW’s mandate includes doula service, public and health professional education about the health impacts of incarceration, community-based research about health and incarceration, and political advocacy.