Just when it seems we’ve made the tiniest bit of progress in efforts to eliminate violence against women, along comes a new technology that objectifies and demeans women in a whole new way.

Motherboard, a multi-platform, multimedia publication, recently reported on a new app that “takes an image of a clothed woman, and with one click and a few seconds, turns that image into a nude by algorithmically superimposing realistic-looking breasts and vulva onto her body”.

The anonymous programmer who goes by the alias “Alberto” said, “DeepNude” only works on images of women, because it's easy to find thousands of images of nude women online in porn.”

Fortunately, the creator of “Deepnude” has taken the app down, citing server overload and potential harms.

In an email conversation with Samantha Cole of Motherboard, Alberto said that he had grappled with questions of morality and ethical use of this app. "Is this right? Can it hurt someone?" he said he asked himself. "I think that what you can do with DeepNude, you can do it very well with Photoshop (after a few hours of tutorial)," he said. If the technology is out there, he reasoned, someone would eventually create this.

For now, a potentially harmful and dangerous app has been removed, but it’s only a matter of time before the technology is adapted to another app with dollar value and not human value in mind.

If you’ve ever wondered how you can help end violence against women and girls…a great place to start is not subscribing to harmful apps. Think about the cost to individuals before you hit the “Buy Now” button.

What are your thoughts about apps that exploit women and girls? Would you subscribe? Yes or No?

Share in comments below.

#loveshoulnthurt #protectwomenandgirls #whatintheworld



“As part of the continuum of services to support survivors, VAW shelters are integral to ending violence against women.”

Every year, thousands of women are forced to leave their homes fleeing abuse and violence.

In order to find safety and protection for themselves and their children, women often turn to local shelters to provide them with the refuge they need. In addition to providing a safe place to stay, shelters help women rebuild their lives, heal from abuse, develop resiliency, and move towards a life free from abuse.

Across the Durham Region, we are fortunate to have four VAW shelters. Shelters that are often running at over capacity without adequate or sustainable funding.

The needs of an abuse survivor are so multi-faceted and require more than just a safe place to sleep. Among their many responsibilities, shelter workers assist and advocate for women and their children in navigating the legal system, securing affordable housing, immigration services, child protection and mental health services. They also provide counselling, safety planning, child specific programming, parenting classes, outreach services and prevention and awareness programming.

“More Than a Bed: A National Profile of VAW Shelters and Transition Houses” was released on May 1, 2019, and provides information on 290 VAW shelters’ physical buildings; shelter size; length of stay and capacity; the various groups served and the acces­sibility of shelters for different survivors; service delivery and programming; labour, salaries, and types of work conducted; and funding, finances, and reporting. Where relevant, the report presents a cross-section of data at the regional and population size levels to illustrate differences across the country, as well as between larger and smaller communities.”

“The data clearly shows that VAW shelters are providing expanding services to a diverse group of women and children without comparable funding increases. They find creative solutions to keep women safe even when they have no more funded beds available. Capacity challenges are compounded by the lack of safe, affordable, and appropriate housing for women and their children.”

“Funding issues, including underfunding and lack of stability in funding, have significant repercussions on the work of VAW shelters/THs. They are unable to provide competitive salaries, which, coupled with burnout, leads to high turnover among staff. Many have to fundraise to meet their operating costs, with some not meeting their costs even with fundraising.” Women’s Shelters Canada

The Report gives excellent insight into the services shelters provide, the challenges they face to protect women and their children and to offer “more than a bed”. If you don’t work in the sector, you will likely be surprised with the challenges faced by shelters to provide adequate services to survivors and if you do work in the sector, you will be all too familiar with the realities.

Shelters need the support of the communities they serve. Contact your local shelter to see how you can help. Bethesda House: Bowmanville, Herizon House: Ajax, Y’s Wish: Oshawa, The Denise House, Oshawa

#vawshelters #communityheroes #readthereport #loveshouldnthurt

Summer Bucket List


This is a reprint from a previous post but I thought it was worth sharing again. Hope you enjoy!

So here we are again... those lazy, hazy days of summer. Actually, I find there's not a lot of the lazy thing happening. The world keeps turning and some things never slow down and stop.- regardless of the season.

Like, violence against women.

Summer is a time when abuse and violence against women and children may escalate. Shelters often report an uptake in domestic violence during summer months. Stress due to children being around more, hot summer temperatures and an increase in alcohol and drug abuse can all add to an abusive partner's existing behaviour and may contribute to the need for shelter services.

I bet you're thinking, "What can be done during this time of year to keep the #loveshouldnthurt message moving forward?"

Funny you should ask, because I have an idea.

Why not create a violence prevention Summer Bucket List? A list of things that you, your friends and family can do to make a difference in your home, workplace and communities.

Here's a few ideas to get you started:

1. SPEAK UP!  At this time of year there are lots more social gatherings; BBQ's, pool parties, family picnics, get together's at the cottage and just relaxing with family and friends. No matter what the situation, it's never okay to speak about women in derogatory or demeaning ways. If you hear someone using abusive language or putting women down in any way...SPEAK UP! You can say something in a non-confrontational way. "It's wrong to speak about women that way. It's not okay."

Sometimes people just need to be reminded and you may be surprised by how many others feel the same way and were just waiting for someone like you to say something.

2. GET INVOLVED During Christmas and other holiday seasons, shelters receive much appreciated help through donations, supplies, gift cards and products for women and children. Shelters are often full to capacity during the summer resulting in an increased need for help from the community.

Get together with your family or neighbours to organize a garage sale and donate the proceeds to your local shelter. It can be a fun way to work together to benefit the lives of women and children.

3. LEARN NEW THINGS Take the time this summer to learn more about violence against women; how it impacts individuals, families and your community, and how you can help. Here's a great website with ideas on educating kids about gender equality, non violence and violence against women and girls. It's a great place to learn about those issues for yourself as well.

4. READ MORE  When you want to relax by the pool or the deck - take a book to read. Unwind with fiction, non-fiction, or any other type of read that you love, but for your Bucket List, choose ones that promote healthy relationships, respect and gender equality. Share your reading list with others.

These are just a few ideas to get you started with a Summer Bucket list that will make a difference for you and for others.

Share your list or ideas on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook - using the hashtag #loveshouldnthurt #loveshouldnthurtdurham

That's it for now - I don't want to keep you too long. You've got a bucket to fill.

Have a great and safe summer!!

#loveshouldnthurt #loveshouldnthurtdurham #summerbucketlist #summerholidays #summerideas

Nevertheless She Persisted


“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.” (Mitch McConnell banning Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the floor of the US Senate.)

I recently moved to a new home. As a housewarming gift, my son gave me a picture of women who have persisted throughout history to create real change. Across the bottom of the picture are the words, “Nevertheless She Persisted.” This quote became popular in 2017 after the United States Senate voted to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren's objections to confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. She was basically told to sit down and be quiet because the Republicans didn’t like her objections or what she had to say.

“How shocking and unusual!”, said no woman ever. Most women have experienced being “warned”, at some point in their lives, to sit down and be quiet. But like Elizabeth Warren, many women have understood their purpose to be bigger than themselves - which was the powerful motivator for their persistence.

I was so moved by this picture. The simple print, captured the names of a handful of women who were courageous and selfless enough, to stand up, lead out and make a difference.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about women in my life who have used their persistence to create change for others.

Over a short period of time, I’ve experienced the passing of three wonderful, determined women. It’s been a time for reflection and pondering about the many amazing women that have influenced my life for good. Each one, combining the desire to stand for their beliefs and values, with determination and persistence. “No”, was not an excepted answer and never the end of the conversation.

It’s interesting to me and maybe not a coincidence, that I came across a documentary called “Five Awake”. The film documents the experience of a small group of determined women, fuelled by anger and outrage over yet another domestic homicide, which resulted in multiple, senseless murders. If you are looking to be inspired by what a small group of committed, persistent women can do, it’s definitely worth the watch.

As I watched the film, many women came to mind. Women who have been brave in the face of opposition, disappointment, discouragement and fear. “Nevertheless They Persisted”. I just want to say a great big “thanks!” to all women who are courageous and committed enough to persist and make real change happen. Sometimes your efforts have been quiet and in the background, going unnoticed in our busy, daily lives. Sometimes you were a part of a collective effort with other dedicated women, and sometimes you were on your own doing battle with the Goliath in your path.

“Thank You!” for all you do and have done!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens (women) can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Who are some of the persistent, determined, courageous women that you know? (Share in the comments below.)


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Quartz (qz.com), a digital business news publication, is taking a year-long look at the fight for gender equality and empowerment for women in the workplace, at home and beyond.

“How We’ll Win”, has been created as a series to reveal a clearer picture of gender equality through interviews, stories and live events with men and women who are willing to fight for a future that is equal for all.

“It’s a hard truth: The workplace is still not a level playing field. But in this unique cultural moment, women and their allies are opening up new dialogues and taking bold steps to improve their lives and livelihoods. Throughout 2019, Quartz will highlight how people are confronting injustices and the larger cultural landscape that makes the fight for gender equality more important than ever.” How We’ll Win 2019

Take a look for yourself. “How We’ll Win” is a collection of experiences, investigating and highlighting topics from Fighting for Equality, Becoming a Man, Closing the Gap, Life at Home and more. It’s fresh, fascinating, and filled with ideas and insights from courageous people who are making a difference in the fight for gender equality.

#loveshouldnthurt #genderequality #howwellwin

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Anyone can be a victim of crime or unexpected tragedy.

“At Victim Services, we believe that the voices of victims of gender-based violence matter. We believe that victims deserve the highest quality of trauma-informed service, and support available; when this happens, victims can become survivors.” Kayla Yama, Clinical Director Victim Services of Durham Region

Victim Services of Durham Region (VSDR) assists individuals and their families in the immediate aftermath of crime or sudden unexpected tragedy. Operating 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, VSDR is the only service in the Durham Region providing immediate on-scene crisis, trauma, safety and mental health support services to victims of crime and sudden tragedies. Our programs provide crisis intervention, practical assistance, referrals for a wide range of programs, services and counselling. Services are flexible and portable. The immediacy of this service assists in mitigating the harmful effects of trauma on victim(s) and their loved ones.

Our services are tailored to the needs of each individual, and may include: mental health support, systems advocacy, financial assistance, safety planning, accompaniment, assistance in navigating bureaucracies (such as: Criminal Injuries Compensation, subsidized housing, ODSP, Ontario Works, child care services, Police, etc.).

The majority of our clients are victims of domestic violence and their children, survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are two of the most under-reported crimes in Canada. The fact that there are few convictions, and perpetrators often go free may influence a woman’s decision about reporting. VSDR is here to help take care of an individual’s needs and rights as a victim by providing information, support and assistance.

Human Trafficking (HT) is the fastest growing crime in Canada. VSDR provides highly specialized, HT services, including support, survivor intervention, and awareness and prevention strategies through our expert, Human Trafficking Crisis Intervention Counsellor.

Studies identify the best way to end human-trafficking and other forms of violence against women and girls, is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Effective prevention starts by educating and working with youth.

In partnership with Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS), VSDR has created a grade 9 education and awareness program for students throughout the Durham Region. These workshops are inclusive of youth culture and debunk widespread myths and misconceptions about human trafficking in Canada, in order to increase protective factors. The highly interactive training, uses current media through a survivor’s perspective, to bring to light the concerning epidemic of Human Trafficking in Durham Region.

Expanding upon our work with youth and in honor of Victims’ Week, VSDR and DRPS are hosting “The Antidote to Human Trafficking: A Youth Symposium”, to raise awareness of trafficking of youth. School educators and students grades 8 and up, will be equipped to understand the nuances of consent, gain a strong knowledge of trafficking in Durham, and what to do if you suspect this is happening to you or a friend.  The agenda for the day includes: a poetry slam, Ted Talks speaker Kim Katrin Milan, hearing from a survivor of human trafficking, and a workshop promoting online safety. We believe this symposium is vital to supporting young people’s mental and physical health. We are excited to raise awareness, and enable youth to understand and access critical resources and keep themselves safe. For this event, VSDR acknowledges the financial support of the Department of Justice Canada.  

To assist parents with HT awareness, Victim Services is hosting, “Human Trafficking: Parents and Prevention”, June 4, 2019, 6:00 -8:00 pm. The event will include information and awareness about human trafficking, practical tips to prevent youth from being trafficked and hearing from a survivor and a parent, both with lived-experience with human trafficking.  

Parents can register for this event on https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/human-trafficking-parents-and-prevention-tickets-60837132501

Special thanks to Kayla Yama, Clinical Director, Victims Services of Durham Region, for this guest post.

#victimservicesofdurhamregion #loveshouldnthurt #hereforyou #humantrafficking #help

Music of the Heart


“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” ― Billy Joel

We’ve shared lists of great movies meant to empower survivors, we’ve even shared some listen-worthy, podcasts…so of course our next step is to share a Survivor Playlist that we’ve put together to inspire, encourage and strengthen women.

There’s something about the power of music that can breathe new life into a woman who feels broken, giving her strength, hope, courage and confidence to do the things she never thought she could.

We’ve picked songs that we thought would help women remember who they are and just what they can accomplish. We hope that this playlist will influence positive change and provide a mirror to help women see themselves as the strong, beautiful, resourceful women they truly are.


INVINCIBLE - Kelly Clarkson


FIGHT SONG - Rachel Platten

STRONGER - Kelly Clarkson

THIS IS ME - Keala Settle

YOU SAY - Lauren Daigle

WHO SAYS - Selena Gomez

BRAVE - Sara Bareilles

ONE WOMAN - Multiple Artists

I DON’T THINK ABOUT YOU - Kelly Clarkson

This list is by no means complete. What songs do you like to listen to when you are looking for courage and inspiration? Let us know so we can add it to the list.

As always we’d love it if you share this post!

#musicoftheheart #iamwoman #courage #survivorplaylist #loveshouldnthurt


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“Women leaving an abusive partner need support in many areas of their lives.”

It’s important to understand what agencies and services exist within Durham Region to support women impacted by abuse and violence. Follow us through the “Behind the Scenes” series as we dig a little deeper into the network of agencies and individuals, responsible for helping women live free from abuse and violence.

To start off, we are taking a look at DRIVEN (Durham Region Intimate Relationship Violence Empowerment Network). They serve as a “one-stop shop”, bringing together co-located agencies who work collaboratively, to provide a more holistic environment and remove barriers for women accessing services.

Riley Spigarelli, Program Manager for DRIVEN is the author of the first in this series:

“Women leaving an abusive partner need support in many areas of their lives. DRIVEN brings together a variety of critical services for women. Our services are free, with on-site child care and assistance with transportation to and from our location, via taxi.

DRIVEN has ten on-site partners and seventeen off-site partners throughout Durham Region, that are dedicated to breaking down barriers and providing support that is safe, comforting and convenient for survivors of gender-based violence and abuse.

‘The goals of DRIVEN include prevention of re-victimization, increased safety, and maximizing a woman’s limited time and finances.

‘Leaving an abusive situation is an extremely difficult step to take. DRIVEN works to ensure the transition for women is as safe and seamless as possible. Providing access to basic needs such as food, housing support, financial assistance, safety and security for themselves and their children, is the starting point for women who come through the doors of DRIVEN. Once these essential needs have been addressed and put into place, DRIVEN member agencies can help women create the next steps in planning to break free from abuse and violence, which may include legal advice, court support and child protection.

DRIVEN’s excellence in service and continued success stems from a collaborative effort by community agencies, partners and individuals, in-kind donations of on-site staff and support of many allies. They are united by the common goal to provide ease of access for essential services for women who are impacted by gender-based violence and abuse.

‘To get a sense of what a woman can expect when she comes through the doors at DRIVEN, front-line staff were asked about their experience working at DRIVEN and what they would say to a woman thinking about accessing services:

‘As a front-line worker at DRIVEN, I have had the joy of working with dedicated women who are passionate about the services they provide. I have gained a greater understanding of the supports and services available from community partners and can more confidently refer clients to other agencies.’

‘My experience working as a front-line staff has been great because:

‘I can assist women with accessing multiple services on-site… Collaboration with community partners makes services for women better and so much easier for them to access and understand…I’ve learned so much from everyone and in particular, I’ve gained a new perspective on the different aspects of domestic violence and it’s effects.’

DRIVEN has been a wonderful experience that has allowed me to learn more about the resources and supports in the community, which helps me to feel like I can better support clients. It also helps me to understand the barriers that our clients face in terms of accessing services and how, as agencies we can work to make these transitions easier for clients. I have witnessed through this front-line work, the power in a client becoming aware of services that are in place to support them in various capacities, that they did not know existed before and how transformative gaining this information can be for them.’


‘To new clients who are thinking about accessing services, I would encourage them to do so. A lot can be accomplished during one trip to DRIVEN and many connections can be made to assist someone in becoming free of domestic violence.’

DRIVEN is a great starting point to learn about what services are available in the community. It’s a place where they (women) can learn about their rights, can develop a safety plan and can get support with coping with the abuse and with the process of leaving an abuser.’

‘I would want them (women) to know that going through DRIVEN is a great way for them at the very least to get an understanding and have knowledge of resources/supports that are available in the Region to support them through their experience. Even if women are not ready to take the next steps, having the knowledge of how they can access services, and what the whole process looks like for each service provider, will make it easier for them and removes barriers for when they are ready.’

DRIVEN is located in Oshawa, hours are Monday’s from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, excluding statutory holidays. For more information visit the DRIVEN website http://www.durhamdriven.com/services.html or call 905-432-7233, email: info@durhamdriven.com to set up an appointment or to learn more about what DRIVEN has to offer.”

Many thanks to Riley Spigarelli and the member agencies of DRIVEN for the wonderful work they do and for contributing to Behind the Scenes.

And thanks to you for sharing this link with those you think might be interested in ending violence against women.


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Determining what love is and what it isn’t, can get confusing.

Sometimes those who say they love you disguise their abusive behaviours to look like love. They may say things like, “I just love you so much..” or “I want to take care of you.”. Statements like these can come from a loving and kind place - but they can also come from control, manipulation and jealousy.

Thanks to the One Love Foundation there are ways to clear the confusion. If you’re in doubt or unsure about your relationship check out the Signs of An Unhealthy and Healthy Relationships below.


 Understanding these behaviors can help you figure out if you’re in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship. Many times, these behaviors are used to gain power or control and can have a negative impact on your well-being or day-to -day life. In some cases, these unhealthy behaviors can escalate to violence. If you feel like something might be off in your relationship, trust your gut and get help from community resources or information about relationships at One Love Foundation.

 INTENSITY: Having really extreme feelings or over-the-top behavior that feels like too much. Examples include if someone is rushing the pace of a relationship, always wanting to see you and talk to you, and feeling like someone is obsessed with you.

 JEALOUSY: An emotion that everyone experiences, jealousy becomes unhealthy when someone lashes out or tries to control you because of it. Examples can be getting upset when you text or hang out with people your partner feels threatened by, accusing you of flirting or cheating, being possessive over you, or even going so far as to stalk you.

 MANIPULATION: When a partner tries to influence your decisions, actions or emotions. Manipulation is not always easy to spot, but some examples are; convincing you to do things you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable with, ignoring you until they get their way, and using gifts and apologies to influence your decisions or get back in your good graces.

 ISOLATION: Keeping you away from friends, family, or other people. Examples can be when your partner makes you choose between them and your friends, insisting you spend all your time with them, making you question your own judgment of friends and family, and making you feel dependent on them for money, love or acceptance.

 SABOTAGE: Purposely ruining your reputation, achievements or success. Examples can be making you miss work, school or practice, keeping you from getting school work done, talking about you behind your back or starting rumors, and threatening to share private information about you.

 BELITTLING: Making you feel bad about yourself. Examples can be calling you names, making rude remarks about who you hang out with, your family or what you look like, and making fun of you – even if it’s played off as just a joke.

 GUILTING: Making you feel guilty or responsible for your partner’s actions. Examples can be making you feel responsible for their happiness, making you feel like everything is your fault, threatening to hurt themselves or others if you don’t do as they say or stay with them, or pressuring you to do anything sexual you’re not comfortable with.

 VOLATILITY: Unpredictable overreactions that make you feel like you need to walk on eggshells around them or do things to keep them from lashing out. Examples can be mood swings, losing control of themselves by getting violent or yelling, threatening to hurt you or destroy things, and making you feel afraid of them. Volatility can also include lots of drama or ups and downs in a relationship.

 DEFLECTING RESPONSIBILITY: Making excuses for their behavior. Examples can be blaming you, other people or past experiences for their actions, using alcohol or drugs as an excuse, using mental health issues or personal history (like a cheating ex or divorced parents) as a reason for unhealthy behavior.

 BETRAYAL:When your partner acts differently with you versus how they act when you’re not around. Examples can be lying to you, purposely leaving you out or not telling you things, being two-faced, acting differently around friends, or cheating while in a relationship with you.


Healthy relationships are ones that bring out the best in you. Even though no relationship is perfect, healthy relationships make you feel good almost all of the time and generally bring you up and not down. Here are some characteristics and behaviors of a healthy relationship. Keep in mind that with all of these behaviors, there’s a threshold for when it becomes unhealthy. For instance, loyalty is great, but at a certain point it can be unhealthy if you are being loyal to a partner who continuously disrespects you. At the end of the day, the characteristics in a healthy relationship make you feel confident and supported.

 COMFORTABLE PACE: You and your partner allow the relationship to happen at a pace that feels comfortable for both of you. Oftentimes, when you begin dating someone, you may feel that you’re spending all of your time with them because you want to – that is great! But be sure that nothing feels imbalanced or rushed in the relationship. In a healthy relationship, nobody pressures the other to have sex, make the relationship exclusive, move in together, meet their family and friends, get married, or have a baby. When you do choose to take these steps, you both feel happy and excited about it—no mixed feelings.

 TRUST: Believing your partner won’t do anything to hurt you or ruin the relationship. Examples are when your partner lets you do things without them, has faith that you won’t cheat on them, respects your privacy online (like who you text and Snapchat), and doesn’t make you go out of your way or work hard to “earn” their trust.

 HONESTY: Being truthful and open with your partner. It's important to be able to talk together about what you both want. In a healthy relationship, you can talk to your partner without fearing how they’ll respond or if you’ll be judged. They may not like what you have to say, but in a healthy relationship, a partner will respond to disappointing news in a considerate way. Some examples are having good communication about what you both want and expect, and never feeling like you have to hide who you talk to or hang with from your partner.

 INDEPENDENCE: Having space and freedom in your relationship to do you. Examples are when your partner supports you having friends and a life outside of your relationship and not needing to be attached at the hip or know every little detail about your life.

 RESPECT: If respect is present in your relationship, your partner will value your beliefs, opinions and who you are as a person. Examples are complimenting you, supporting your hard work and dreams, not trying to push or overstep your boundaries, and sticking up for you.

 EQUALITY: You and your partner have the same say and put equal effort into the relationship (instead of feeling like one person has more say than the other). Examples are feeling like you are heard in your relationship or feel comfortable speaking up, making decisions together as opposed to one person calling all the shots, and equally compromising on decisions in your relationship to make the other person feel important or respected.

 COMPASSION: Feeling a sense of care and concern from your partner and knowing that they will be there to support you, too. If you’re in a healthy relationship, your partner will be kind to you, they will understand and be supportive of you when you’re going through tough times, and they will lend a helping hand in times of need. An important caveat is that it has to be two-sided and displayed equally. You should never feel like someone is taking advantage of your kindness.

 TAKING RESPONSIBILITY: You and your partner are both responsible for your own actions and words. You both avoid putting blame on each other and own up to your actions when you do something wrong. Examples are when your partner genuinely apologizes for their mistakes, avoids taking things out on you when they're upset, and tries to make positive changes to better your relationship.

 LOYALTY:  When your partner is reliable and you feel confident that they have your back. Some examples are when your partner is respectful and faithful, sticks up for you, doesn’t take sides against you but helps you see the middle ground, and keeps your secrets safe. In a healthy relationship, you don’t have to test the other person’s loyalty, because you just know it’s there. Sometimes people say, “We all make mistakes” and, “Nobody’s perfect” to make excuses for disloyalty. If you find yourself saying that often, it’s a red flag that the relationship may not be healthy

 COMMUNICATION: If you can talk to your partner about anything—the good and the bad—this is a sign of a healthy relationship. Examples include feeling like your partner will listen to you when you need to talk, they are open to discussing further, and not feeling judged for your words or opinions

 Some of these characteristics may seem obvious to you, and some may make you think about how you can improve your own relationship, or help a friend improve theirs. Now that you’re equipped with this knowledge, spread the word! We can all work to build healthier relationships, and it starts with education and conversations!



“It’s up to each of us to get very still and say, ‘This is who I am.’ No one else defines your life. Only you do.”  Oprah Winfrey

There’s an exercise I do in one of my workshops to help women with their feelings of self-worth and confidence.

I begin by passing around a hand mirror and asking the participants to look at their reflections. I then ask them to create a portrait of what they saw when they looked in the mirror. They can use words and pictures to create their masterpiece and when they’re finished each person is asked to share their portrait with the group.

I’ve always been interested in how most participants identify their flaws. The pimple on their chin, the bags under their eyes, the wrinkles on their neck, their unruly hair. It’s not often that they highlight their positive qualities. When most people look at their reflections (if they’re brave enough to do so), they see their many flaws; reminders of past wounds, hurt feelings and mistakes they’ve made. It’s easy for most of us to focus on our faults and dwell on our insecurities instead of seeing our positive attributes, qualities and characteristics.

It’s February and everywhere you look there are reminders of Valentine’s Day and love. Before you go giving your love away to someone else, I’m going to suggest that you first give love to the person you’re with the most…YOU!

Treating yourself better with more care and love is important to your overall happiness, confidence and feelings of self-worth. You won’t be so tempted to compare yourself with others or care about what others think of you. You’ll feel stronger and more confident. If you learn to love yourself, you’ll have so much more to give the world around you.

Before you buy someone else a box of chocolates or a lovely card, here are five tips to help show yourself a little more love.

1.       Learn to enjoy your own company

Most of our days are spent preoccupied with family, friends, responsibilities and worrying about life’s challenges, and we lose focus of ourselves. We feel selfish to even consider spending a bit of time on our own.

When working with women to help them rediscover themselves, I ask them to take a calendar and add all of the things they do in a month. Grocery shopping, driving kids to events and practices, appointments, work, cooking, cleaning, helping others and anything else they spend their time on.

As we review what they’ve recorded, I ask them where they are on the calendar. Most face a stark realization that they’ve not included themselves very much, if at all. Most are invisible in their own lives. I remember one woman with tears streaming down her face saying, “I have forgotten me”.

It’s important to add time for yourself – to be with yourself. Being on your own helps you to learn more about who you are, to consider your dreams, the purpose and plan for your life. Spending time with yourself helps you to understand what’s going on inside and gives you the chance to leave the outside of your life for a few moments.

2.       Be careful how you talk to yourself

Negative self-talk is destructive.

When we are constantly telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, perfect enough or “as good as”; it’s harder to love ourselves. Constantly reminding yourself of how you don’t measure up and of all the mistakes you’ve made, causes self-hate instead of self-love. This kind of self talk affects your outlook on life and can have a negative impact on your health.

Change what you say when you talk to yourself. Be more positive and kind. While no one is perfect, you don’t need to dwell on your weaknesses. Consider the things that you’ve learned from your experiences. Look for your good qualities and think about the things you do well. You’ll find when your self-talk is more positive, you won’t dwell so much on what other people have to say, raising your confidence and happiness levels.

3.       Keep a journal

Writing down your experiences, feelings, ideas and day to day thoughts, is a powerful exercise in helping you to love yourself more. Writing in a journal is another way to spend some quality time with yourself and gives you a chance to reflect on the good that you do. I love to go back and look at my journal entries. It gives me a chance to learn from my experiences, to see the things I’ve accomplished, areas that I’d like to change and goals that I’d like to set

Writing in a journal can be therapy for the times in life when things are hectic, you’re stressed or feeling anxious and can help you gain a clearer perspective on things..

Get a notebook – it doesn’t need to be fancy - or create a journal folder on your computer. Begin by sharing with yourself the events of the day and how you felt about them. Don’t worry about your grammar, spelling, sentence structure, or if things sound “right”. It only needs to be for your eyes. Just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and begin.

 4.       List your accomplishments

Take a few moments and think about the good you’ve done, the things you have learned and recognition you’ve received.

Perhaps getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other during a difficult time in your life. is an achievement. In this fast-paced, competitive, Instagram perfect world – it’s easy to feel you don’t measure up or contribute anything of value or worth to anyone. Consider the times you’ve shown up when someone was in need, planned and organized a family event, prepared a great meal, organized a room or drawer or toy bin in your home, created a budget, stretched your budget, remained calm in a difficult situation, volunteered your skills, shared a  random act of kindness to brighten someone’s day, followed through with a goal or commitment, stuck with something you’ve been tempted to quit, forgiven others or yourself. These and many other accomplishments are worthy of your recognition.

After you’ve finished your list, revisit it often. It will remind you of your great qualities and show you that there’s so much to love about yourself.

5.       Define your own life.

“It’s up to each of us to get very still and say, ‘This is who I am.’ No one else defines your life. Only you do.”  Oprah Winfrey

Oprah was once standing trial in Texas for allegedly defaming the beef industry. Going into the trial she believed that she’d done nothing wrong and would be able to prove it while standing up for what she believed. During the trial, the prosecuting attorney was trying to paint a picture of Oprah as a manipulative, malicious liar who had conspired against the beef industry. He flailed his arms, pointed his fingers and spoke very loudly at Oprah. She said of the experience, “The louder he yelled, the calmer I became. I got very still inside and said to myself, “That is not who I am.” Oprah realized that whether you’re on trial or going through a trial - difficulty, pain, illness, heartache - the trial stands outside of you, flailing, ranting and raging, trying to tell you who you are.  No one else gets to define your life – only you..

You get to see and say who you really are, what you can accomplish and the person you will be.

These steps are just the beginning to loving yourself. If you follow them, you can take control of your own life. Don’t wait for someone else to “let” you be happy, to see who you really are. Don’t wait any longer. Give yourself the gift of loving you.

#loveshouldnthurt #loveyourself #lovetheoneyourwith

Internet Safety

VPCC Empowerment Internet Safety Guide.jpg

Normally I don't re-post from another page on our website - but this is something I think is worth repeating so, just in case you missed it on the #loveshouldnthurt page - here is a great guide on Internet Safety for Women. 

"...while 70% of women believe online harassment to be a major problem, not many know how to prevent it." vpn mentor

I'm really excited about this Internet Safety Guide published by VPN Mentor, authorities on web privacy. 

As we know, online tools used for abuse and harassment of women, are social media platforms. More than ever before, women are experiencing threatening messages, being tracked, sent unwanted sexually explicit images, and having their privacy invaded.

This guide empowers women to navigate the internet in safety and without fear. There's tons of information, tips and advice, regarding harassment - "on social media, at work, while dating and more...and how women can take control." vpn mentor

Check it out and be sure to share it with all the women you know.

#loveshouldnthurt #internetsafety #everywoman


"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant." Anonymous.

Spring is coming - I promise! After such a long winter we're all looking forward to it.

It's an exciting time of renewal, regeneration, and new beginnings. It's also a time for planting seeds. Seeds that bring hope for a better future - hope for change.

This past month, our community was rocked yet again, with the senseless loss of Three. More. Lives. Three lives violently taken in the name of "love".  

Even with the current movements of #metoo, #timesup, #itsneverokay, #pressforprogress and our very own #loveshouldnhurt, at times like this, it's difficult to feel like we are making the slightest bit of difference or progress. Regardless of the ongoing work and effort to help women whose lives are impacted by abuse and violence, every day, in every community - it's still not enough.

This month, we are calling on men to take the lead for planting the seeds necessary for real change. We need your leadership, your voice and your action to ensure that #loveshouldnthurt - that it will stop hurting so many women and children.

We need ordinary, everyday guys - our friends, husbands, brothers, relatives, neighbours, coworkers and colleagues to let others know that "It's Never Okay!". The infographic below might give you ideas on where to start - or click Here and Here for more information about what you can do.

#loveshouldnthurt Resource 3.png

Let us know what you are doing to plant seeds of change. Share with us here, on Twitter or Facebook. Tag us using #loveshouldnthurt #vpccdurham #loveshouldnthurtdurham @vpcc8 and please share this message with other men like yourself.


Square puzzle.jpg

How many squares do you see? 

Most can see the obvious sixteen squares. But if you look a little longer you will see that in addition to the sixteen squares, there are nine two-by-two squares, four three-by-three squares, and one large four-by-four square, which brings the total to thirty. It's interesting that the squares were always there but you may not have found them until you looked harder..

So what does this puzzle have to do with violence prevention? 

I've been giving a lot of thought over the last few days, to the tragic deaths of Ajax residents, Krassimira Pejcinovski and her two teenage children.

Since the beginning of 2018, eight females in the GTA have allegedly been killed by a man they were in a relationship with. I'm haunted by the thought of another woman's life being snuffed out and like many of you, wonder what it will take to make it stop. 

Violence prevention is like the square puzzle. There's always another square, another possibility, if we just keep looking for it and the clue to "another square, another possibility" may be more obvious than we think.

Farrah Khan, coordinator of Ryerson University's Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education, said, "Community members, rather than justice or violence prevention workers, are often best positioned to take meaningful, potentially life-saving action."

"Most survivors don't talk to professionals. They talk to their neighbour, they talk to a friend, they talk to a family member," Khan said. "We have to have the opportunity to build our muscles as a community...to actually intervene and name when these things are happening and connect our friends and loved ones to the supports that they need to survive."

WE are those community members. We are the hidden "square in the puzzle". We have the power and influence to help prevent violence against women and to save lives. We are the David to the domestic violence giant, Goliath. The menacing warrior that was defeated by a shepherd boy,.equipped with nothing more than a sling and some stones.

As a community, we can arm ourselves with stones in the form of information; becoming more aware of warning signs and gathering resources to share. We can observe, listen and believe. We can let our politicians know that there is no excuse for violence against women and that the growing number of domestic homicides is NOT OKAY. We can tell those in political power, that they need to start using their positions of influence to take a stand for the communities for which they have stewardship and responsibility. We are a community that can make all the difference for a woman and her children.

There has never been a better time for the #loveshouldnthurt campaign because it's all about community getting involved. Check out the VPCC website for resources and updates on #lovshouldnthurt

You can also Save-The-Date and join us for a Provincial Candidate's Forum on May 3, 2018 at the Abilities Centre in Whitby, to learn more about what our provincial leaders understand regarding the diverse needs and realities of our communities and how they plan to tackle the issues that are important to women and families living in the Durham Region. 

 #loveshouldnthurt. But. It. Does.

What do you think can be done to end violence against women? #loveshouldnthurt #loveshouldnthurtdurham #davidandgoliath #communitypower #vpccdurham


Man Enough - Episode 1 pic.jpg

Justin Baldoni actor, director, social entrepreneur and co-founder of Wayfarer Entertainment is challenging men to engage in redefining masculinity and figuring out ways to not just be good men, but good humans. Baldoni may be best known for his role as Rafael in "Jane the Virgin" and his ultra-successful Ted Talk

Along with guests like, The Daily Show's, Hasan Minhaj, John Legend, Prince Ea, Derek Hough, currently the host for the popular dance competition show, "The World of Dance", Javier Munoz from the smash Broadway hit, "Hamilton" and Matt McGorry of "Orange is the New Black"; Baldoni is challenging guys to redefine male stereotypes like strength, bravery, and toughness through his new talk show "Man Enough". Watch Episode 1 Here.

I think it's a great way to start the conversation. Take a look and leave your comments below. Don't forget to "Like" and "Share".



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#loveshouldnthurt Campaign Launch Keynote

Elizabeth Pierce, Executive Director, Catholic Family Services of Durham

(Not everyone was able to make it to the #loveshouldnthurt Campaign Launch, so I wanted to give you a sample of the fantastic keynote address, Elizabeth Pierce shared. Here it is below....)

"The Violence Prevention Coordinating Council (VPCC) is comprised of 32 member organizations in this Region, who are committed to addressing the issues of violence in our community.

"We meet monthly, educating one another about the work being done to address the issues of violence against women, which affects the youngest to the oldest and the most vulnerable in our Region. We also intentionally plan community events to build capacity, increase awareness and be a catalyst for change regarding violence in Durham Region. 

"This year, as we considered what we would do to mark November Woman Abuse Awareness month, we were at a loss. Despite some excellent, past events - partnering with Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) to bring in experts like Jackson Katz and White Ribbon Campaign - the issue of violence against women in Durham continues to intensify, and the interest from the broader community to be part of the solution, continues to stagnate.

"This year we realized that we needed to do something different. Our goal as a group of agencies is not to be event planners, but to actually be a catalyst for violence prevention through our coordinating efforts.

"We needed to find a way to reach people of all ages, stages, sectors and genders, to educate, and bring awareness to the issues of violence against women, so that we, as a community of service providers and members alike, can begin to change the landscape of our Region.

"Because right now, the landscape is not very lush and appealing with respect to the prevention of violence. Here are the realities we discuss each month:

  • In Durham Region, the police respond to an average of 21 domestic calls per day
  • 25% of all calls for violent crime are domestic violence cases
  • In Canada, a woman is murdered by her intimate partner every six days. Three of those have happened here in Durham Region this year, with a likely fourth, once the victim has been identified
  • Luke's Place, an agency providing legal support to domestic violence victims going through the family law process, helped over 600 women this year
  • Our four shelters housed 608 women and 320 children this past year. In and of itself that is a staggering number. What is more staggering, however, is that the shelters turned away 1,080 women because they were at capacity. Shelter crisis lines fielded 5,507 calls
  • The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, conducted a study on the best and worst cities for women to live and work. Oshawa ranked 24th out of 25 overall, with 25 being the worst, and in the individual category of security, Durham Region rated 25th.

"The VPCC decided, these statistics are unacceptable. That the year after year increase in these numbers, has got to stop. 

"It wasn't many years ago that DRPS responded to 13-14 domestic calls per day. It's now up to 21 calls per day. It wasn't so long ago that "the domestic murder" in Durham was Gillian Hadley,an anomaly at the time. This year there has been four domestic homicides so far.

"We believe that making our Region safer for women benefits everyone. The fewer women that are abused, the fewer children there are exposed to that trauma. The fewer children that are exposed to violence against women, the less likely they are to grow up with anger, mental health, learning and emotional and relational challenges. 

"If the emotional, "touchy, feely" isn't as compelling as the business case - then here's the other side: Domestic violence costs the nation over 7 billion dollars each year. The fewer women there are being abused, the less need there will be for costly services such as emergency room visits, doctors, EMS, police, the judicial system and lost days to the workplace.

"It's good and right that we have a month to mark Woman Abuse Awareness. It matters. But, historically, for most people who aren't doing the work on a daily basis, the focus towards this issue tends to diminish.

"Imagine if after October; Child Abuse Awareness month, everyone forgot about standing against child abuse, reporting child abuse, speaking out against child abuse and addressing child abuse. We'd have a big problem. As it should be, child abuse prevention is actually a daily activity here in Durham Region.

We need a change with respect to domestic violence. This is not just a women's problem. And truth be told, it's not something that those of us who work with victims, can stop all on our own. We need everyone. And we need to get the word out - that Love Shouldn't Hurt. Not just in November, but all year long.

This is why we're here today. To launch the #loveshouldnthurt Campaign. It starts today, November 17, 2017 and will continue through to next November. We have buttons, stickers, post cards and posters that you can take with you - or contact info@vpccdurham.org to place an order for your workplace. We will be posting these at UOIT and Durham College as well.

"Our hope is that if you aren't already doing so, you will join us in the fight to ensure that love doesn't hurt and to eliminate violence against women. Even if you are already part of the fight, begin the conversation that #loveshouldnthurt with your colleagues, friends and family - where ever your sphere of influence extends.

"We would love for each person here today to be a champion for this campaign. Check your email the first Monday of every month for articles, resources, up-to-date news coverage, research or videos, to share with your community, raise awareness and to continue the conversation. Contact info@vpccdurham.org to be added to the mailing list.

"We hope you will join the VPCC during the month of February, 2018 - the month when love is celebrated. Encourage everyone in your workplace to fill out commitment cards with an action they will take, to be part of the solution and the message that #loveshouldnthurt. 

"Our lofty goal for this Campaign is to increase the awareness and ripple effect in people's lives, behaviours, attitudes, treatment of one another and beliefs about relationships. The VPCC hopes that our membership of 32 agencies, will be joined by a throng of workplaces, organizations, individuals and groups in the fight against gender-based violence, to ensure that our Region is a safer place for women and children."

#loveshouldnthurt #endviolenceagainstwomen #workingtogether

Engaging Men as Allies in Preventing Violence Against Women

So recently I was cruising through some TEDx talks and came across Robert Eckstein's presentation on "Engaging Men as Allies in Preventing Violence Against Women".

Eckstein currently works at the University of New Hampshire. His responsibilities include being part of a research group called "Prevention Innovations". The primary mission of this organization is to create and evaluate tools that help with the prevention of sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking. 

I think what he has to say is food for thought..His ideas to engage more men in the prevention of Violence Against Women, are what he calls "small and simple; starting with day-to-day things".

Here are his thoughts on how we get more men to care about these important issues:

Make the issues more relatable. More personal. Bring the issues close to home.

Consider the women in your life. A partner, sisters, friends, daughters, mother, aunt, grandmother. With the stats that 1 out of 4 women will be abused by a relationship partner and 1 out of 6 women will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime...How many women would be on your list of those you know?

The reality is that most everyone will have somebody in their life that either has or will be directly impacted by abuse or violence. So how DO we engage more men in the prevention of violence against women?

The following question can be answered by anyone but I hope the men reading this will take special notice:

Do you think the women you care about see you as an ally in the cause of prevention of violence against women?

When it comes up; how do you talk about rape?

When it comes up how do you talk about domestic violence?

When there's a case in our community or news feed; do you express your opinions about the case and if so how do you do it?

Do you know what victim blaming is?

Do you know what rape myths are?

Do you make an effort to avoid endorsing these ideas?

In the most general of terms; what type of language do you use when you talk about women?

Do you automatically become defensive in discussions related to violence against women?

Do you automatically become defensive when you hear discussions around male privilege? If so have you ever thought about how this comes across to women you care about?

Do people look at you and say, "This is someone I can share my story with, without feeling judged and blamed?...Who I can share my story with and feel confident that they will listen and provide support?

Considering these questions can be beneficial for anyone - but if men will consider their answers to these questions, perhaps they will become more conscious of the role they play in the lives of women and the prevention of violence against women.  

If you've got 15 minutes to spare - the time will be well spent in watching the full TEDx talk here.

Take a look and see what you think about his suggestions and then share your thoughts in the comment section below. If you like what you see, click "Like" and don't forget to share this video and post with men in your lives to get the conversation started.