May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Canada. Sexual assault, and sexual violence more broadly, is something that’s become increasingly prevalent in news stories and on social media. It’s not that sexual violence itself is increasing-- rates of sexual assault seem to have remained consistent for over ten years -- it’s just that our awareness of these experiences have continued to evolve. Since #MeToo stories burst into the spotlight at the end of 2017, there has been increasing momentum to not only talk about experiences of sexual violence, but to understand why they are so common and hopefully put a stop to them.
We are learning hard lessons about pandemics and the kind of actions that can save lives. Violence committed against women and girls, because they are female, has been described as a pandemic. It is a public health threat that is prevalent, sometimes fatal and global.
The recent worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has brought about something that most of us have never seen before: a near complete shut-down of daily life as we know it. Schools and daycare centres have been shuttered; restaurants, nightclubs, concert halls, and other businesses have been forced to close their doors; some companies are having employees work from home, while others have laid off workers indefinitely.While these closures are necessary in order to stop a devastating spread of this virus, there is a stark and equally devastating side effect to this reality that many people are fortunate enough to know nothing about: an increase in family violence.
With the lead up to the global day celebration women and women’s rights, news headlines have been detailing the issues that women worldwide continue to face: lack of freedom, education, access to resources, and necessary supports, to name a few.
Pink Shirt Day, otherwise known as Anti-Bullying Day, is a day when people wear a pink shirt to symbolize the unified stand against bullying. It’s an idea that originated in Canada and has since spread across the country. It’s a positive step in teaching children and youth not only about the importance of kindness, but also about the risks and repercussions of bullying itself.
This past year has been full of change. The #MeToo movement has continued gaining momentum, giving courage to many women to come forward, and helping to give voices to those who are unable to speak out loud on these important issues. At Neighbours, Friends and Families, we have continued to focus on educating the general public about domestic abuse while also discussing issues that are becoming more mainstream or need to be at the forefront of issues, especially through our blog.
The winter holiday season creates many expectations for a time of joy. Television commercials, stores, online advertisements, all show images of happy families and friends celebrating together and enjoying the holiday celebrations.
This isn’t the reality for everyone, though. For many people the holidays are filled with sadness, anxiety or pain. This time of year can bring up difficult memories or bring us into contact with people who we would rather not see. It is especially tough for those who have lost a loved one or are going through difficult times. For some, family get-togethers can bring up painful memories or fears. Others might feel very alone and isolated at this time of year, with limited resources and support.
In recent years, survivors and activists have ensured the issues of sexual violence stay in the spotlight, and social media has greatly helped to elevate this cause. Campaigns such as “MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, and #NotOneMore, among others, have helped prevent survivors from being ignored and silences, while gathering support worldwide.
Tis the season...to be generous? While philanthropy and volunteering is always much needed in our society, it seems that the time around the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.) seems to have special meaning for many and also entices a greater influx of donations and volunteering efforts. Women’s shelters are also often thought of this time of year, whether it’s because there is a need for coats, hats and mitts, or because many times, there are children staying at the shelters who celebrate these holidays and, of course, also deserve to feel special.
I have chosen to write about a deeply personal topic – the bullying experiences of Indigenous boys with braids in mainstream schooling settings. I write about this topic as an Indigenous mother of two children a young man, and a boy who have long hair, but have endured the bullying and violence perpetrated by other kids on the playground - forms of violence deeply embedded within white settler masculinist norms based on assumptions of what a ‘real boy’ should look like. As we have learned, being an Indigenous boy with long hair in our day and age has real consequences.