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Wednesday November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.This day, governments and organizations around the world join together to raise public awareness in an effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world. November 25 also marks the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (November 25 – December 10). Please see 16 Days of Activism tab for activity suggestions here in Canada.

COVID-19 Update: FST is currently providing services remotely. For up-to-date information on current workshops and groups, please visit the Virtual Workshops and Groups.

The aim of Family Service Toronto’s Violence against Women (VAW) program is to promote non-violence and to work towards the eventual elimination of violence against women. The VAW Program assists women who have experienced abuse during the course of their lives.  Abuse may have occurred in childhood, during a past relationship, or it may be an ongoing concern in a current relationship. Woman abuse spans a large range of possibilities and does not always end with a final incident of violence or abuse in a specific context. Even when the threat is gone, a woman who was victimized may spend years working through the effects of what she experienced. 

Our counselling services for women who have experienced any type of abuse, are available in English, Tamil, Somali, Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Arabic and Yoruba and to all women who live and/or work in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We  also provide counselling for women who have been labelled with developmental or intellectual disabilities and have experienced abuse.

The VAW Program works from a feminist, intersectional, anti-oppressive and trauma-informed framework. Read the VAW Intersectional Feminist Statement for more information.

If you are in an abusive same-sex relationship, you may want to visit our David Kelly Services page. If you are a senior experiencing abuse, please visit our Seniors and Caregivers Support Services page. 

For more information about the VAW program please contact:

  • Service Access Unit
    Tel: 416-595-9618 to arrange an appointment with a VAW counsellor or register for an in-house group program;
  • Dari-speaking counsellor
    Tel: 416-595-9618  for individual counselling and community-based programs for the Afghan community
  • Tamil-speaking VAW counsellor
    Tel 416-755-5565 ext. 525, for individual counselling and community-based programs for the Tamil community
  • Farsi-speaking VAW Counsellor and Community Facilitator
    Tel: 647 960 0351 for individual counselling and
    Tel: 416-586-9780 ext. 512 for community-based programs for the Iranian community
  • Arabic speaking counsellor
    Tel: 416-595-9618  for individual counselling and community-based programs for the Arabic speaking clients

In Canada, the theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is #OurActionsMatter. Download the 16 Days of Activism Calendar.

November 25

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Share a copy of this #OURactionsmatter calendar to a friend, family member or co-worker

November 26

Wear purple today to raise awareness around gender-based violence!
Share or create an #OURactionsmatter post on a social media platform.

November 27

Who & What?

White Ribbon is a non-profit organization with a vision. It is the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.

Did you know the White Ribbon movement started in Toronto in 1991?
The White Ribbon Campaign since then has spread to over 60 countries around the world!

White Ribbon engages men and boys in the prevention of gender-based violence by promoting equity and transforming social norms. They continue to challenge and support men and boys to foster the realization of their potential to be part of the solution in ending all forms of gender-based violence.

White Ribbon asks men to wear white ribbons as a sign of their pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.

How you can help:
Visit www.whiteribbon.ca to learn more and support a future without gender-based violence!

November 28

Download or share the Early Warning Signs brochure or take the quiz (go to the quiz tab).

November 29

Watch a TED talk video on sexual abuse/rape. Here are some links:

November 30

Visit https://www.nfb.ca/channels/films-gender-based-violence/ for a collection of documentaries and short films on gender-based violence.

Read or see the English part of the speech on gender-based violence presented by Rabila Attai, Violence Against Women counsellor and Healthy Families, Healthy Communities facilitator at Family Service Toronto. The speech was delivered March 8, 2019 to Afghan men and women in English and official Afghan languages at the International Women’s Day culturally-specific event organized in Toronto by Rabila Attai and the Daunesh Association.

December 1

On World AIDS Day we celebrate and support global efforts to prevent new HIV infections, increase HIV awareness and knowledge, and support those living with HIV. We also honor women victims of war and gender-based violence who as a result were infected and are living with AIDS.

What is HIV/AIDS? What are the symptoms? How is AIDS transmitted?
Learn about AIDS and familiarize yourself with some common myths and facts about the disease to stop spread stigma.

December 2

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery: Read an article on how marginalized women are at higher risks of GBV.

December 3

Learn how women with intellectual disabilities, who are also survivors of violence and abuse, use empathy to heal each other in this short video created by two members of our Violence Against Women team!

December 4

Watch the short film: A Better Man
This film is a Toronto-based story of a woman reconciling with an old boyfriend who was also extremely abusive towards her for many years. Watch this beautiful, heart-touching video as it raises awareness of the existence of GBV within our city, but also allows a survivor of abuse to share her healing journey with the rest of Toronto.

December 5

Learn about the REDress project, an installation art project created by Jamie Black, multidisciplinary Metis artist. The project aims to raise awareness around the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada: https://www.jaimeblackartist.com/exhibitions/.

December 6

Today marks the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre (or Montreal Massacre) that took place in 1989. Fourteen women were murdered and an additional fourteen were injured from a tragic act of gender-based violence and misogyny.
In honour of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, there is a call to observe a moment of silence on December 6 at 11:00 am, to honour the 14 women who lost their lives at at l’École Polytechnique.

December 7

Read some common gender-based violence myths:

  • Women in same-sex relationships are not abused
  • Low income women are more vulnerable to violence
  • Highly educated women are less vulnerable to violence
  • Immigrant women are more vulnerable to violence -they bring their cultural practises for example the rule of thumb, he has the right to beat me or to have sex with me, I am his property
  • Women cannot be sexually abused by their husbands
  • Women with labels are only abused by strangers
  • Men are not abused there are no services for them however the vast majority of those being abused are women, due to their gender. 
  • Sex workers cannot be raped, it’s OK part of their job
  • Abuse is just physical
  • Scantily clad women are asking for it
  • Most women lie about being abused
  • Only sis gendered women experience violence
  • Only feminine women are abused
  • Women provoke abuse by nagging – she deserves it, needs to be put in her place
  • Consent is implied if she does not say no
  • If she says yes to a date that means she wants to have sex
  • It’s not happening to me and it doesn’t matter you don’t know anyone who this has happened to
  • If it happens she would remember what happened
  • If she isn’t hurt, then she wasn’t abused
  • If she was drunk how can she be sure this really happened to her?
  •  She has a mental illness; she takes medication
  • Stranger danger
  • Sexual assault means rape
  • Abusing is a learned behaviour only, comes from a broken home
  • Marriage doesn’t make abuse OK it’s not a licensed to beat and it doesn’t make it right
  • Only indigenous men abuse indigenous women
  • He said he did not do it

December 8

Explore different ways you can incorporate self-care into your everyday life Examples: yoga, tai chi, expressive arts, music…

December 9

Read a real story about survivors of gender-based violence.

Kiana Hayeri is an Iranian documentary photographer who has interviewed some Afghan women who were victims of gender-based violence. Here is a heartwarming story of one of the survivors who is now a successful police office working towards creating a future without violence against women.    

Shot #onassignment for @stern @ Afghanistan

“37-year-old Shamila was only 11 and on her way home from school when she was kidnapped by a group of Mujaheddin fighters in Kabul. She was then taken to Pakistan and forced to marry one of the fighters who was later killed. His family beat her with a stick until she gave in and married one of the cousins who later became a Talib. “He would bring home a suicide vest and hang it above my head, telling me that it was my turn to wear it the next day, I would beg him, kiss his hands and feet to spare me for the sake of the children we had together.” The scars and deformed bones on her body bear witness to mental and physical torture she endured in the 16 years she lived with her second husband, until she escaped with her 4 children. She joined the Afghan National Police (ANP) and often takes on domestic violence cases in her district. Her past and her job has put her life and her 4 children on the front line. With constant death threats coming from her Talib husband as well as people she has jailed, Shamila keeps a gun in the house at all the time.”

December 10

The last day of the 16 Days of Activism is International Human Rights Day. The 2020 Theme is Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights. On the last day of activism, consider donating to a local women’s centre or shelter of your choice.
Your donation can help individuals living below the poverty line and/or affected by COVID-19 by providing some sort of comfort this holiday season. The weather is getting colder and the need for hats, mittens, boots and winter jackets continues to increase in our busy city. Get into the spirit of giving this winter and help fellow Torontonians that may be in need have a pleasant transition into the cold, snowy Canadian weather.  


  • VAW individual counselling services
    Our counselling services are for women who have experienced any type of abuse and are available in English, Tamil, Somali, Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Dari, Arabic and Pashto. We also provide counselling to women who have been labelled with a developmental or intellectual disability and have experienced abuse.
  • Groups
  • Partner Contact: We provide telephone support to female partners of perpetrators of violence who are mandated by the courts to attend a Partner Assault Response program.
  • Healthy Families, Healthy Communities: Groups and workshops for newcomers to Canada, presently provided in Farsi, Tamil, Somali, Pashto and Dari at various locations throughout Toronto.
  • Seniors Community Connections: A community-based, drop-in centre for seniors from the Tamil, Iranian, Somali, Afghan and Spanish-speaking communities.


  • In-house groups and workshops held at various locations across Toronto
  • Community-based groups and workshops for women, held in various communities and agencies across Toronto
  • Presentations to agency staff and community
  • Training seminars for frontline workers
    Training for settlement workers, ESL workers, teachers, nurses and other service providers, who interface with women who may have experienced abuse
  • Consultation Services
    One to one and/or group consultation services for professionals, who work with women, who have experienced abuse and violence, including women who have been labelled with intellectual disabilities.

Woman abuse is defined as the intent by a man to intimidate and control his female partner, either by threat or by physical force on her person, her children, her pets or her property. The purpose of abuse is to induce fear and gain control. Underlying all abuse is a power imbalance between offender and victim.

If you are in danger now call 911.

If you are in crisis now, please call one of the following lines:

Assaulted Women’s Helpline: 416-863-0511

Distress Centre Line: 416-408-4357

Info & Resource Line: 211 – someone will direct you

How much do you know?

FST-VAW Early Warning Signs quiz is a simple way for girls and women of all ages and abilities to determine if they are in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship. The content of the questions were informed by women who were in abusive relationship and what they said they experienced with their partners. Read or take the Early Warning Signs quiz, or download/print Early Warning Signs brochure.

To learn more about abuse please read VAW – Issues you may be facing

Please note that FST is offering services virtually and by phone, as offices remain closed to the public. The full list of FST workshops and groups offered at this time is available on the Virtual Workshops and Groups page.

For more information/registration call our Service Access Unit at: 415 595 9618

Violence Against Women – Issues you may be facing

Community Agencies and Distress Centres

The following community agencies and supports are available for women who need support or who would like to talk to someone anonymously about their situation. For more agencies that provide support, please go to 211Toronto or call the helplines listed below.

Police and Ambulance
Call 911
For non-emergency police matters call 416-808-2222

Assaulted Women’s Helpline
Tel: 416-863-0511; TTY 416-364-8762
Hours: Monday – Sunday 24 hours: Service is provided in over 154 languages

Distress Centres 24 hours
Tel: 416-408-4357
Hours: Monday Sunday 24 Hours

Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape
Tel: 416-597-8808; TTY 416-597-1214
Hours: Crisis Line Monday-Sunday 24 hours

Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic: Offers legal representation and professional counselling to women who have experienced violence.
Tel: 416-323-9149

Scarborough Women’s Centre: A women’s resource centre which provides information, education and support services to assist survivors of abuse.
Tel: 416-439-7111

YWCA Toronto: Provides an array of programs for women who are being abused, including a loan program, group programs, housing support and community events
Tel: 416-961-8100

Victim Services Program of Toronto: This agency provides crisis intervention, safety planning, and support immediately after an incident
Tel: 416-808-7066

Other on-line resources

Please use discretion when going to these sites; for your safety, make a plan to empty your browser.

Amnesty International: Activism revolving around putting a stop to violence against women around the world.

Canadian Domestic Violence and Abuse Agencies List: Global inventory of hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centres and women’s organizations

Dawn Ontario: Disabled Women’s Network Ontario

Health Canada: Violence Against Women: Information provided by Health Canada regarding Violence Against Women

Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women: Local community agency providing legal/safety information

Springtide Resources

The Canadian Women’s Foundation

White Ribbon Campaign: Men working to end men’s violence against women.

Woman Abuse Council of Toronto

Programs and Services

Programmes en Français
Appointments and Frequently Asked Questions
Campaign 2000
Caring for Caregivers
Families in Transition
Growing Up Healthy Downtown
Healthy Families. Healthy Communities
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse
Partner Assault Response
Partner Contact
Pat’s Place
Person Directed Planning
Queer and Connected
Seniors and Caregivers
Seniors Community Connections
Social Action
Violence Against Women
Walk-In Counselling