16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
Some of my most painful memories are of my friends and cousins crying as they were taken away to be married to men they didn't know, often much older. I grew up seeing young girls sheltered by my mother in our house from being forced into early marriage. Those were the fortunate few. There are many complex causes driving this violence against women and girls. But it is ultimately rooted in the reality that women and men are not treated equally.
There are still no resources to speak of for girls with disabilities facing violence, even though they experience violence at higher rates and more frequently than any other group of young women and girls in Canada. The rates of sexual, physical, verbal and systemic violence are at least three times higher.
Eliminating violence against women and girls requires the implementation of laws, services and access to justice for women and girls that experience violence, and raising awareness among influential actors and everyday people. Transforming what is "normal" in society -- expected, naturalized, unsaid -- is the critical piece of the puzzle, and one that we can all help put in place. We can challenge what we hear and see, check our own behaviour and beliefs, and defy expectations that promote gender inequality.
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?
We've all seen the recent headlines with high profile allegations of domestic abuse. I can't count the number of times I've heard friends and family ask the same question of those stories: "why doesn't she just leave?" Too many people assume that if a woman is in an abusive relationship that she is making a choice to stay and that she has the power to end the abuse if she just leaves.