We are all shocked and horrified by the case of child abuse that recently emerged in California, but we can be sure that the signs were there. Consider children who rarely appeared but, when they did, appeared gaunt, extremely pale and abnormally thin; frightened looks on the children’s faces as a parent hovered over them; strange schedules and isolating behaviour, with neighbours noticing the family staying up all night and sleeping all day; witnessing the children marching up and down the stairs for hours in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning; a college student whose mother waited outside his classroom door while he attended classes, never letting him out of her sight. All of these were potential warning signs that something wasn’t right.
2017 started with women, men, and children around the world marching. While the marches initially began as a protest against the US Presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, they evolved into much more than that. The marches spread around the world, with people gathering together and protesting for many different reasons. 2017 also became the year that started the #MeToo movement, which has carried on into 2018 and shows no signs of slowing down. Yet, there is still work to be done.
“When you see injustice, in your community, within your family, among your neighbours or friends, stand up. Don’t just sit idly by and let it happen. Stand up.” - Maggie Cywink. This is the message that Maggie Cywink left the audience with at our special bookclub event, where both Maggie DeVries and Maggie Cywink spoke about the murders of their sisters. What preceded both events was a lifetime of hardship and grief that led to the loss of life for both of these young women.
2017 was a big year for us at Neighbours, Friends and Families. We increased the amount of blog content we’ve been adding, responded to many different news stories and political issues, and as always, worked hard for change. We cheered alongside MP Peggy Sattler as she introduced bill to provide domestic violence victims with paid leave and we cheered the Wynne government when they passed a bill with many of the provisions from Peggy Sattler’s initial private members bill. We cried along with the many family members and friends that lost loved ones at the hands of a partner or parent. We talked about the best ways every single one of us can learn how to recognize the signs of domestic violence and help someone in need.
Men, where did you learn how to treat women? I grew up in a locker room culture. Hormonal young men pretending to know who they were and what it was like to be men.One way we tried was through the objectification of women, upholding “normative” examples from culture, that women were something you tried to game, or to win — whether it was for social capital, sex or power. In this culture, I saw and took part in this objectification. To give some context, it was almost always through verbal harassment. Firstly, as a bystander — I dared not speak-up for fear of social suicide. And secondly as a perpetrator — with my share of locker room talk. I find it was all a defense mechanism, to either inflate my sense of self, or to feel valued by my male peers.
From November 25-December 10, we took part in the 16 Days of Action on Violence Against Women remembered all of the women tragically and violently taken from us. We talked about the importance of providing more homeless shelter options and models for women who require a place to live, especially when fleeing an abusive partner. And we shared a powerful memoir detailing the pain and effects that a domestic violence murder trial has on loved ones. While we honour these women and advocate for change every single day, these poignant two weeks highlight the severity of this issue that affects women all around the world, across every socio-economic level and nationality. We cannot forget that we live in a world where women are still killed every single day, just because they are female.
Many years have passed since my daughter Natalie, was murdered, yet over and over again I will become transfixed by the news of a woman’s murder trial. Most recently the trials of Laura Babcock in Hamilton and the triple murders of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam, and Carol Culleton being heard in Ottawa have preoccupied me. I identify with the family members and friends sitting in those courtrooms and enduring the indignities of a murder trial. Each day has the potential of devastation or personal annihilation. What will be said, what will be learned.
The World Health Organization reports that a third of women worldwide in intimate relationships will experience violence at the hands of their partners. The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness identifies that 27.3% of total homelessness populations are women but these statistics do not include the over 100,000 women and children who flee their homes due to violence every year. It has been estimated that if those women and children were included in the total, that the percentage could be 50% or more.
Domestic violence is an issue that affects us all. You might have even experienced it firsthand yourself. Or maybe you have a friend, a family member, or a co-worker who has been in an abusive relationship. There’s also a chance that someone you know has experienced violence at the hand of a partner, but you’re not even aware of it. Domestic violence is far-reaching and the emotional, physical and financial implications can be long-lasting, especially when it comes to mental health. From November 25th to December 10th, we’re joining in the 16 Days of Action to help end domestic violence. Each day, we’ll outline a different action that we can all take to help reduce this worldwide issue.
The reporting coming out of the US on the mass killings in Texas this past weekend is difficult to watch. As stories and images surface, we are stunned by the horror of innocent people, including children and babies, trapped and terrorized inside the walls of a church by an armed man on a killing rampage. How could this happen? CNN reporters have been focused on the purposeful selection of the church as the location for the massacre. A church is supposed to be a sacred place, a sanctuary from the world. What does it mean that he chose this place to unburden himself so violently?