Caring for our veterans, particularly those suffering from PTSD, is undoubtedly an important issue. However, a conversation around mental health shouldn't overshadow men's violence against women and children. More concerning, shifting the narrative towards mental health and further away from men's violence make it even more difficult to hold perpetrators of similar acts of violence accountable.
Last week, physicians in Ontario were stunned to hear that one of their colleagues, who by all accounts was a bright vivacious woman, had died, allegedly due to domestic abuse, or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) as it's now called. She leaves behind young children, and a legacy of kindness, health care advocacy and caring.
We see celebrities who we admire as "friends". We support their work, we cheer them on, and we ardently defend them when someone makes an accusation against them. In the eyes of millions of people, Johnny Depp is a hero, an onscreen buddy, and who wants to believe that your best film buddy abused his wife?
I'm just asking for all of us to take a second and really analyze what's happening when we knee-jerk defend a celebrity. Do we truly think they're incapable of doing the act in question? Or do we just need to believe that we didn't invest our love and energy in a bad place? Only children think that someone they love is infallible because of that love. So let's grow up.
What if narcissism isn't what we assume it is? Yes, narcissists project an über-confident, egotistical image but most researchers believe this is merely a smokescreen to disguise extremely low or even non-existent self-esteem. I thought why not demonstrate it because actions speak louder than words.
Zahra Mahamoud Abdille and her two sons fled violence and sought refuge in a Toronto women's shelter. Zahra did the right thing. She wanted to leave the abusive life behind her for good and start a new life free of violence. And thus, she contemplated a divorce. However, such an endeavour requires resources, including legal fees that were beyond her means. Once again, Zahra, did the right thing: she applied for legal aid to proceed with her separation and divorce papers. Sadly, Zahra was denied legal aid because she was working and had a "decent" income.
When mothers are abused their children are also significantly impacted. The abuse ripple-effect is far reaching. Children who witness their mother's abuse can experience learning challenges, behavioural and mental health issues and these long-term effects can extend far into adulthood. The Interval House study also showed the majority of Canadians do not believe that a woman should stay in an abusive relationship for the sake of the children. It is a positive shift that so many Canadians support mothers leaving an abusive relationship, rather than insisting on keeping the family unit intact no matter what.
Abuse is always the responsibility of the abuser. Always. If we want to significantly change attitudes and feel optimistic about progress then we need to hear people saying loudly that there is no action or choice by a victim that can ever justify abuse. Not if she cheats on him, if she's a bad cook, if she nags, if she hates his mother, if she is passive, if she has different priorities, if she's stressed out, if she doesn't feel like sex, if she likes to spend, if she's a poor communicator, if she hates mopping the floor or if she forgets his birthday.
Yes, there are elements in Fifty Shades of Grey that warrant discussion. However, we have to remember that these people are figments of E.L. James' imagination. She's no expert on the BDSM lifestyle and her scenes lack a certain accuracy. This is not what a healthy relationship looks like. You cannot fix a violent person with your love, nor is it romantic to be scared.
Sure there are stars who saw temporary road bumps in their career for their publicized violence against women like Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson, Chris Brown, Tommy Lee, Ike Turner, Bobby Brown and Nicholas Cage. But most of them bounced back and continue to have devoted fans. What message does that send to women who have been abused? That their life is not as important as a great film or song or game or show? What does it say about each of us that we likely have admitted to appreciating the talent of at least one famous abuser?
The report calls for a national plan to address violence against immigrant and refugee women and immigration policies that better support immigrants in precarious circumstances. It calls on the federal government to abolish the two-year conditional status for sponsored spouses, reinstate access to the Interim Federal Health program to all refugee claimants and uphold the privacy of all people who have access to social and health services.
The reality is that domestic abuse is far too common in society and that includes Canada. According to a Statistics Canada study 50 per cent of women in Canada have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Think about that for a minute. Look around your office, your classroom, the street your walking on; statistically every second women you see will have suffered violence. And domestic violence is not just limited to people we don't know or people we don't see. Think about your friends and your family, your co-workers, and your classmates -- any of them could be victims of domestic violence.
This isn't Ray Rice's story of fame to public shame. It's the story of Janay Palmer, Anthea Mari and the many faceless women who have suffered through the same tale. Sadly, the NFL could have used better judgment from the moment the first video was released to the public. The original two-game suspension seems like after-school detention or a fleeting time-out in the corner, a small price to pay for what should be an incredibly adult crime.
To these women this isn't just the monster who kicked them down the stairs or told them they were worthless. He's also the man who romanced them and won their heart, the man they sleep next to, the man they make love to, the man who may be the father of their children, the man they build a life with together. To walk away from him is to walk away from the good moments, from the dream of that life. The possibility of what might have been, if only he could change and see the light. Abuse victims didn't "ask for it" or "like it" or "cause it." They are victims, and asking "why didn't they just walk away" -- whether unintentional or not -- blames those victims.
If you are a man and reading this, you might be thinking "But not all men would hurt women." That's true. Not all men would. But all women have been dehumanized by a man. That's what's forgotten in this conversation -- there's so much defensiveness from men. Please listen to what we have to say. We're telling you that this happens enough that every woman has a story. Not all men do this, but enough men do that the default is to be distrustful and wary around men. Elliot Rodger believed in the lies the Men's Rights Activist Movement told him.
"I like my violence like I like my beer: domestic" This was the recent Facebook status of popular east-end Montreal bar, Nacho Libre, whose social media manager somehow thought it completely appropriate to publish this cringe-inducing "joke." Isn't domestic abuse a riot? Sexist jokes are not funny -- they're hostile.
Teach your children well -- teach them about life and love and joy and sorrow. Teach them to be honest and kind. Teach them to be thoughtful and generous. Teach your children to care for others. Let your own life be the living textbook that your children read. May it be among the most inspiring books they ever open!