Twelve names, twelve stories

by Attiya Khan, Registrar, YWCA Toronto’s December 6th Fund

In late November every year, I email Constable Wendy Drummond at Toronto Police Service to ask for the names of women who have been murdered in Toronto.

As the registrar for YWCA Toronto’s December 6th Fund, which provides interest-free loans to help women flee abuse, every year I receive calls from December 6th vigil organizers who want to share and honour the names of the women killed in Toronto that year.

From the moment I press “send” on the email, I wait anxiously for Constable Drummond’s response. I think about all of the women whose stories I read about throughout the year. I say their names out loud. Although I keep track of these women’s stories, I know that Constable Drummond’s list will include names I have not yet seen.

As I wait for the email, my office phone rings. A woman is calling from a shelter. She needs money to help her move into a new apartment. Her ex-boyfriend beat her up badly. “Thank goodness my son was at school,” she says. She regrets not asking who was at the door before opening it. She had barely opened it a crack before he pushed his way in and beat her up for hours. Immediately after he left, she called the police. She tells me she knew there was no way she would go back to that apartment. She and her son stayed at a friend’s house for a few days before they moved to a shelter. She has enough money to pay for first month’s rent but not enough for last month’s. Can YWCA Toronto help, she asks? “Oh yes,” I say, “we can.”

december 6 fund_logoAn interest-free loan of $750 from the YWCA Toronto December 6th Fund can  change a woman’s life. In this woman’s case, it can help her find a new apartment where she and her son can finally feel safe. She mentions to me that she cannot believe this fund exists. “It is a life-saver,” she says. We hang up.

I check my email and Constable Drummond has already sent me the list of names. There are three names I do not recognize out of the 12 names of women killed. Since I began writing this post, another woman has been murdered. I will add her name to the list of women we mourn at this year’s vigil, and reflect on ways we can prevent that list from growing longer in 2014.

This holiday season, please consider making a contribution to YWCA Toronto’s December 6th Fund.