As I suspect is the case with many other people across the country, I am closely watching the Jian Ghomeshi trial. There were times yesterday when I found myself holding my breath, wishing that this very public trial might be a pivotal moment in our society -- one in which we can finally begin to openly and honestly address the prevalence of sexual violence in our communities.
There are stories I come across in the news that leave me feeling angry, frustrated and, at times, bewildered. But hearing the news that parole had been granted to Graham James, the disgraced former hockey coach convicted of sexually abusing young boys in his care, left a hollow ache of deep sadness in me.
It finally happened. After months of accusations from over 50 women with horrific tales of sexual assault, Bill Cosby's luck has run out. On December 30th, 2015, Cosby stood before a judge, faced charges of indecent assault, and paid more money in bail than most people see in their lifetimes. If convicted, Cosby could face a mere $25,000 fine and ten years in prison. These are charges from only ONE of the women, Andrea Constand, who says she became friends with Cosby when she worked at Temple University.
"Violence against women is a violation of the most basic human rights," Prime Minster Justin Trudeau reflected. I would like to highlight two Canadian women who have faced tremendous tragedy in their lives, yet have pulled them together and are inspiring us all to embrace better ideals in our citizenship.
The women Mordvinov allegedly assaulted made multiple complaints at the departmental level, at UBC's Equity Inclusion Office, to Associate Vice-President of Equity and Inclusion Sara-Jane Finlay, the UBC ombudsperson and Student Conduct and Safety Services. There were likely more. Every office failed these women.
To everyone around me, it looked like our family had it all. The truth was that I lived in a house that was filthy and piled high with debris and animal waste. I was 11years old when my father began to sexually abuse me. I had become accustomed to keeping so many secrets by then that I just added this one to the list. I hoped the abuse would stop. I was terrified and lonely. I am living proof that it takes a community to lift a person up. The day I left my abusive family home was the day I stepped into uncertainty and poverty.
My experiences of childhood sexual abuse -- of incest -- had stolen many aspects of my life but most importantly, my identity as a Tamil woman. After I moved out, I was shunned not only from my immediate family members, but my uncles, aunts, cousins, distant relatives, family friends -- my Tamil community. It didn't matter to my 19-year-old self why you weren't there for me. The fact of the matter was that you weren't. I felt hurt and abandoned.
I am not by any means condoning Josh Duggar's behaviour. His actions have been reprehensible. What I am doing is pointing out an all too familiar calling card that has been handed out time and time again by the same backwards religious fanatics that America calls its own. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have failed utterly as parents by refraining from doing one thing: protecting their children.
The truth is, I've never watched the Duggar family on TV. Still, with all the current media coverage, it's impossible not to be aware of the fact that the eldest son Josh has confessed to inappropriate sexual behaviour, as a teenager, toward four of his sisters and a babysitter. I work with victims of sexual abuse every day in my psychotherapy practice, so I feel I have some insight into the subject at hand. Instead of adding to the judgements in favour of or against the family, I thought that it would be a good idea to look for the learning opportunities here.
Though I am about as much of a dentist as I am a squirrel, the Dalhousie Dentistry scandal cannot be ignored, even by a humble B.F.A, such as myself. Of course, I was outraged by the misogynistic nature of a Facebook page that was created for the express purpose of debasing women within the dentistry program. However, the first thought that ran through my mind wasn't outrage over their sexist remarks.
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?
It is time to end the reign of "nice" and to recognize that both men and women suffer from this tyranny of harassment and feelings of powerlessness. If women try to be nice to avoid problems and disruption of relationships, men may misunderstand and continue the harassment or it may embolden them to continue, not fearing any consequences for their actions.
Examining her very words unveils very destructive, manipulative, and sometimes sadistic behaviours that are, in my opinion, alarming. The controversial sexual abuse she may or may not have inflicted on her sister is what's making the headlines, not the blatant control issues she has and a lack of boundaries she exhibits with her sister. The focus should not about left or right but more about wrong or right.
I started by telling you about my own experience in the world of abuse. I did this because those experiences are what helped me understand the importance of healing in light of a frightening situation. These women -- our sisters -- need our support and understanding to heal. But we cannot forget the men. At some point we are going to have to turn around and help heal this man. Many will think he is undeserving, but he too experienced trauma in his life which he has had to cope with. I'm not talking about forgiveness, I'm talking about compassion.
With every day that passes, the Nigerian schoolgirls could be moving further into dangerous territory of all kinds. Exploitation like the kinds they may be facing can have intensely disturbing effects on a child's social, emotional cognitive and spiritual well-being -- as well as their long-term development.