40 years of mak­ing change

Ac­tivist in fight to end vi­o­lence against women an­nounces re­tire­ment

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - PAUL MORDEN

Michelle Batty is set to re­tire in April af­ter four decades of help­ing vic­tims of vi­o­lence.

The up­com­ing re­tire­ment of the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of both the Sex­ual As­sault Sur­vivor’s Cen­tre of Sarnia-Lambton and the Women’s In­ter­val Home was an­nounced this week by the Sarnia-based or­ga­ni­za­tions.

In the an­nounce­ment, Ge­or­gette Par­son, pres­i­dent of the board for the groups, said they ex­tended their “heart­felt grat­i­tude to an amaz­ing woman who, in fact, did change the world we live in.”

Raised in Wood­stock, Batty moved to the Sarnia area 40 years ago. She worked with the Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety for a decade, fol­lowed by a year at the for­mer Sarnia Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal as a so­cial worker in its psy­chi­atric ward where she found her­self help­ing women who had been sex­ual abused as chil­dren.

“That was the path to work­ing to end vi­o­lence against women,” Batty said.

In 1992, she stepped into the job of ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sex­ual As­sault Sur­vivor’s Cen­tre.

“There I landed and stayed,” Batty said. “Once you have that pas­sion, it never ends.”

In 2014, Batty also be­came ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Women’s In­ter­nal Home when the top jobs at the two lo­cal agen­cies was com­bined into one.

“I’m a su­per busy lady,” she said.

Batty said she re­al­ized early in her ca­reer she was in­ter­ested in work­ing on preven­tion and be­ing in­volved in mak­ing change.

“At the sex­ual as­sault cen­tre, that’s our work – ad­vo­cacy and mak­ing change,” she said. “I think that’s the piece of the work that re­ally helped me in mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.”

Over the years, Batty also served on sev­eral pro­vin­cial ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee on is­sues of hu­man traf­fick­ing and sex­ual as­sault pro­grams, as well with the Coali­tion of Rape Cri­sis Cen­tres and the On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of In­ter­val and Tran­si­tional homes.

“It’s a broader is­sue,” she said. “It’s not just lo­cal, it’s not just pro­vin­cial, it’s global.”

Batty said the his­tory of the move­ment to end vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren is “you take a few steps for­ward and a few steps back­wards.”

But she said things are dif­fer­ent now com­pared to when she be­gan her ca­reer and no one talked about child­hood sex­ual abuse.

“Sur­vivor’s voices are now be­ing heard,” she said. “That is re­ally im­por­tant.”

There have also been im­prove­ment in govern­ment fund­ing and leg­is­la­tion, Batty said.

“Some re­ally good things have hap­pened to as­sist sur­vivors and vic­tims of crime,” she said. “I think we keep mov­ing for­ward, but I’m still re­ally con­cerned about the large num­bers of sex­ual as­saults, and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and mur­ders of women and chil­dren that are hap­pen­ing in the prov­ince.”

Batty said she had been think­ing about re­tir­ing for a num­ber of years, but there was al­ways some­thing new hap­pen­ing on the is­sue that kept her at her post.

“I’m just hooked on this busi­ness of help­ing, and work­ing to­wards end­ing vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren.”

Now that her re­tire­ment date is set, Batty said she’s look­ing for­ward to hav­ing more time to travel and spend time with her grand­chil­dren. pmor­den@post­media.com

PAUL MORDEN/SARNIA OB­SERVER

Michelle Batty, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of both the Sex­ual As­sault Sur­vivor's Cen­tre and Women's In­ter­val Home in Sarnia, is sched­uled to re­tire in April.

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