An annual Quebec-wide campaign against gender-based violence kicks off on Saturday with events examining this year’s theme of invisible violence.

This year’s edition of the 12 Days of Activism includes events like open mic nights, lunches, symposiums, workshops and discussions dedicated to the struggles women face in the system.

Women’s Federation of Quebec President Gabrielle Bouchard said there’s a misconception that violence against women always takes the form of violent assaults in dark alleys, a myth she and her organization are hoping to dispel.

“It’s more insidious than that. I invite people to look at their own history and look at those moments that stick in your memory that you’re still angry about, that you’re still hurt about and think about those as moments of violence even though there was no physical hurt,” she said. “Those moments are violent and we have to recognize them as such.”

Bouchard said that in 2017, there is special significance to the event. In a year in which numerous high-profile men in politics and entertainment have been disgraced by sexual harassment and assault allegations, more and more women have been inspired to come forward with their own stories. Bouchard pointed to the social media #MeToo campaign as a pivotal moment in raising awareness of how common sexual misdeeds can be. 

"Are we starting to recognize there is something more than individual incidents, there is something bigger?" she said. "These campaigns... are also a catalyst to this moment and hopefully something that will be a longer conversation."

Marlihan Lopez, spokesperson for Quebec Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, said while the high-profile cases are important, most women, especially those in marginalized communities, don’t always have a platform to be heard.

“If we really want to win the fight against sexual violence or violence in general, we can’t treat it as an isolated issue or personalized the struggle,” she said. “We have to focus on the fact that it’s systemic and we need to focus on fighting all the systems of oppression that keep women in situations of violence.”

This year, before the official kickoff, there will be the third annual Allied Men’s Lunch Against Violence Against Women. Organized by the Federation of Women’s Shelters, the aim of the lunch is to “foster a discussion of the work to be done collectively to counter violence against women,” specifically the role men can play as allies in changing the culture.

The 12 Days of Action concludes on Dec. 6, the anniversary of the Polytechnique school shooting in which 14 women were murdered in 1989.