Maha El Birani, her sisters, and her mother Sonia had long endured family violence at the hands of Maha’s father, despite eventually seeking outside help and therapy. It all came to an abrupt stop once Maha’s father brutally murdered Sonia in their family home in London, Ontario, Canada. The short documentary, Fatal Silence, directed and produced by Alan Powell, recounts Maha’s poignant story of her family’s suffering and what lessons she hopes others will learn from her family’s plight so no one else has to endure what her family went through.
We’re often taught, through media or even school, that domestic violence is all physical. But that’s often not the case. The lack of physical bruises should never be a sign that all is fine. While abuse can most definitely be physical, it can also be emotional, psychological, mental, or financial. Many times, it also starts off slowly, with the abuser attempting to control his victim in numerous ways.
In Ontario, Neighbours, Friends & Families (NFF) has been a clear voice for public education on addressing domestic violence since 2005. NFF materials are designed to prepare neighbours, friends and family members, as the people who are closest to women who are experiencing abuse, as ‘bystanders’. NFF teaches everyone to recognize warning signs and risk factors, to respond safely and effectively and to know where to refer for help in the community.
I left my husband in 2011 because he was physically and mentally abusive. He would hit me if I didn't do what he wanted and call me awful names and put me down to the point that I felt I didn't deserve better. I struggled for 8 years with this abuse. I was totally isolated from friends and family, and he made sure of that.
National Indigenous Peoples Day was first established in 1996, and it actually means a lot to me as an Indigenous woman in Canada. Like the day of the national apology on residential schools in 2008, I still remember the day it was announced by the government, and I have celebrated it annually in the context of family and community ever since. Unlike some Indigenous peoples, I identify to a certain degree as a Canadian, although it is a complicated and ambivalent relationship to be sure. However, National Indigenous Peoples Day is not about government recognition for me. It is about celebrating tremendous Indigenous resilience and survival against great odds. I often think about my ancestors who came before me, who persisted and resisted against government forces and inhumane attempts to eradicate and erase our Indigeneity, relationship to land and ways of knowing.
Every year, Father’s Day is a natural opportunity to discuss the role of fathers in the lives of children. Lately, this conversation has evolved to become an opportunity to discuss masculinity and how fathers can be caring adult role models, providing positive definitions of masculinity to boys. Based on a surface level internet search for Father’s Day, this conversation is desperately needed.
What do you think of when you think of World Health Day?
For many, domestic abuse isn’t on the list of issues they’d think of, but it should be.
Physical or sexual abuse is a public health problem. One that, tragically, affects one third of girls and women worldwide. This isn’t a problem that is limited to certain regions or even countries. It’s one that exists right here in Canada, and in Ontario. In the homes of our family and friends, in the workplaces of of our neighbours, and in our own backyards.
Valentine’s Day. It’s a day synonymous with red roses, chocolate, and love. For many though, the day is not full of happiness. Some may be reminded of a painful past relationship, or even left feeling alone if they are not currently in a relationship.
When approached to write this blog post I was thrilled as I enjoy writing and the topic is one that is near and dear to me. I have the distinction of being a woman with a disability (albinism/nystagmus) and I have worked in this field for over thirty years as a court advocate, group facilitator trainer and researcher. I was blessed to be the disability strategy coordinator for NFF.
The focus of my work has been in the context of disability and intimate partner violence. It has been well established that women with disabilities and Deaf women are victimized at a higher rate than temporarily abled women. A good amount of research has focused on violence in the context of being perpetrated by care givers not to mitigate that aspect my focus has been in the context of intimate partner violence.
70 years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United National Genera Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This milestone proclaimed that everyone had rights - regardless of gender, race, colour, religion, language, origin, political opinion, or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages. The Declaration sets out universal values for all people and nations, establishing the worth and dignity of every person.