This is an unusual post for me, just because I don't generally like to get into political topics, but this is too important not to say. I'd like to think that things have improved since Marc Lépine massacred 14 women in Montreal twenty years ago, but they haven't improved enough for victims of violence.
Yesterday, there were memorials held across the country to honour the memory of the women killed, and to highlight the fact that violence against women still exists, even in this day and age. It's not only murder or spousal abuse; rape, emotional abuse, stalking and other forms of cruelty and misogyny still fly under the radar. They are taboo topics in our society, and the situation for women and girls in our society never going to progress if that remains the case. We have to talk about these things, especially with our youth, in order to make a change for the better.
According to the Canadian Women's Foundation, half of Canadian women (51%) have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. I personally believe that number to be much higher. Based on conversations I've had with my girlfriends over the past 15 years, I'd guess that closer to 75% of women have been sexually assaulted, usually by a date or someone else they know. Most of these crimes go unreported because the women blame themselves, are ashamed or afraid. Even taking that into account, the statistics are frightening. I would like to think of Canada as a progressive, compassionate and safe place to live, but unfortunately that's not always the case.
So what are we going to do about it? The Ending Violence Association of BC has a mandate to educate the public and government bodies on the needs of victims of violence, as well as providing other community-based services for girls and women. I personally believe that the most important and effective way to end violence against women is to talk about it. We need to change the culture of fear and shame that surrounds sexual assault, relationship violence, child abuse and criminal harassment. Talk to your kids, including (and especially) boys, about appropriate behaviours and what to do if they are treated inappropriately. Talk to your teenagers about dating violence - There's a great article about it on oprah.com. If you suspect a woman is being mistreated in any way, talk to her. Talk to your friends about violence against women. Until we can talk about these things, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.