violence against women

We Need to Address Violence Against Bisexual People

Bisexual pride flag

Bisexual pride flag

by Lola Davidson

Trigger Warning: biphobia, biphobic violence, intimate partner violence

According to the CDC, almost 75% of bisexual women have been victims of sexual and/or domestic violence. This number includes rape, molestation and stalking. 81% of those bisexual women (61% of total bisexual women) have experienced violence from an intimate partner.

This makes bisexual women the number one target of sexual and domestic violence in the world, followed by bisexual men (47.4%), then lesbian women, heterosexual women, gay men and heterosexual men. The study doesn’t specify whether trans folk were included in the identities, but I’m assuming statistically they had to have been in some way.

As a bisexual woman, these numbers are very scary to me but also painfully believable.

I wanted to explore the issue further, so I made a post on my blog explaining what I was doing and asking fellow bisexual people to share their stories. The response I got was unbelievable. I found myself reading through their responses for days; it was a very emotional experience.

Bisexuals of different ages, genders, races and classes told me about how they’ve been beaten, punched, had bricks thrown at them, disowned, stalked, raped, harassed, mentally and verbally abused – there was even one person who shared with me a story about how their neighbor came to their house and beat them repeatedly to “cure”  their bisexuality.

The attackers mentioned where both heterosexual and homosexual. The interesting thing is that almost all these survivors said they felt that the people in their lives would have been okay with their orientation if they were either gay or straight but they weren’t okay with them being bisexual because they needed “to pick one or the other”. Read more

Posted on by Lola Davidson in LGBT Leave a comment

This December 6th, I Remember, And I Am Angry

candleby Jarrah Hodge

Each year I write a message on December 6th, the National Day of Action and Remembrance on Violence Against Women. Today we remember Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, and Annie Turcotte, who were gunned down on this day 24 years ago in Montreal, simply because they were women participating in a man’s world by studying engineering.

We also remember the many, many women in our own communities and around the world who have been the victims of gender-based violence since then, as well as those who have faced it and survived, and those who continue to face it every day.

It always makes me tremendously sad.

This year, though, I am equally angry.

I am angry violence against women is still so much a part of our world.

I am angry when I think about those women whose particular voices are often silenced and stories of violence not told: indigenous women, racialized women, trans women, elders, and women with disabilities.

I was angry this past Tuesday in the House of Commons public gallery as I watched a Conservative MP make a statement on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and seeing many of her colleagues stand and applaud the sentiment, even as their government still refuses to call a national inquiry into the more than 600 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women over the past 20 years.

I am also angry that the Conservative government couldn’t give us legislation to fight “revenge porn” (sharing intimate images without consent) that wasn’t part of a hidden agenda to expand police powers and fight cable theft.

I am angry that the B.C. government is still dragging its feet on implementing all the recommendations from the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry Report and is forcing Pickton’s victims’ families to continue to wait for compensation.

So I note this is a day of action as well as of remembrance, and we can’t wait any longer for the action.

Groups like the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses, the Canadian Federation of University Women and the Canadian Labour Congress are using today to call on our federal and provincial governments to work together on the UN recommendation to establish a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls by the year 2015.

“While there are many worthwhile initiatives current underway in our communities, Canada must work with provinces, territories and other stakeholders to adopt a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address the root causes of gender-based violence. This is why we are calling on all federal political parties to support the creation of a National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls”, said Susan Murphy, CFUW President.

The Canadian Labour Congress’ statement says an action plan is needed to provide a “proactive, comprehensive approach to a systemic problem.”

If you take one action today, let it be this:

Visit the YWCA’s Rose Campaign site and send a message to your Member of Parliament that calls on them to support a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls, and a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women. Better yet, if you have time, take some of the key information, draft a message in your own words, find your MP’s email, and send it to them directly.

Image on YWCA Rose Campaign postcard to MPs

Image on YWCA Rose Campaign postcard to MPs

And if you’re able to do more, check out the YWCA’s December 6th toolkit (pdf) for a range of actions to take, from small to large, and a list of other resources to pursue.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

My Friend is Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence, How Can I Help?

cryingThis post is a Battered Women’s Support Services publication, originally posted at the Ending Violence blog. Cross-posted with permission.

When our friend, family member, loved one is living with abuse by an intimate partner, we have a key role in supporting their journey.

You may be the only person that they can trust.  Please read on for tips and tools and become an empowered bystander with the knowledge to help a friend.

Violence in an intimate relationship is a systematic pattern of domination, where the abuser uses abusive tactics designed to maintain power and control over the woman.  The Power and Control Wheel was developed by Domestic Violence Intervention Program based in Duluth, Minnesota.  The P and C Wheel provides a good illustration of the tactics used by an abuser.

Remember:  You may be the only person your friend can trust.  Be attentive, believe what she says, tell her you care, and show her you are willing to help.

•    Reassure your friend that she does not cause the abuse.  An abuser learned to use violence as a way of expressing anger or frustration long before he/she met your friend.
•    Physical safety is the first priority.  Women frequently minimize the violence because abuse usually gets worse over time.  Ignoring the abuse is dangerous.  Explain this to your friend and help her to make an emergency safety plan by obtaining transition house phone numbers and considering police and legal protection.
•    Tell your friend she is not alone.  Abuse happens to many women, of all income and educational levels, in all social classes, in all religious and ethnic groups.
•    If she is not ready at this point to make major changes in her life, do not take your friendship away from your friend.  Your support may be what will make it possible for her to act at a later date.
•    Give your friend BWSS’s brochures, website link, which have information and resources of help for women.
•    Help your friend with her self-esteem.  Tell her what you admire about her; why you  value her as a friend; what are her strengths and special qualities.
•    Support her emotions:  fear, anger, hope, grief in the loss of her relationships, etc.
•    Help with children:  they need support for their feelings, to know the reality of what is going on, to know they are not to blame. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism Leave a comment

“Strong Women” Can Still Experience Violence

Photo of a woman's hands.

by Lyndsay Kirkham

Trigger warning for discussion of intimate partner violence.

Perched on the bathtub’s porcelain edge, cradling the phone in my hand I could hear the voice of a disbelieving woman, her whispers barely audible. She was asking how, with a degree in Women Studies, with years of working in shelters and sexual assault centres, how could this be happening to her?

It was my voice. It was me asking for help.

Embarrassment and incredulity my companions as I begged a crisis centre employee to tell me that this could happen. I needed to know that this happened to other people, that I wasn’t the only “strong woman” to experience violence in a marriage.

He slapped me before I had even asked him to share my cramped graduate school apartment. One hand had steadied my face while the other came quickly across my peripheral vision and hit me hard. I shrugged it off, giving him a pass because I was just completing a Masters that focused on feminist writers – I couldn’t possibly be a victim.

Months later, now married, he dislocated my thumb while in a drunken rage. This time, I cried, I gave myself a shake telling myself that this drinking was unacceptable, this it needed to change. For two more years I struggled silently with abuse that was emotional, psychological, physical and financial. I continued to focus on his drinking, not the violence, not on the abuse.

Every day I would wake and button myself snugly into my feminism, I was The Strong Woman. I was the one people called when they wanted to talk about the new Margaret Atwood book. I was the one organizing Take Back the Night events for my community rape crisis centre. I was the one loudly talking about a need to infuse our political and justice systems with more female role models. I marched. I organized. I wrote polemics. I raged about abortion rights. I couldn’t cop to this violence in my marriage – because, what then?

Consciously or not, I was reinforcing a stereotype that silences thousands of women who experience violence in their lives. It wasn’t until, after another weekend of observing inebriated violence and finding myself locked in a bathroom, my tears soaking through the too-thin sheets of the phone book’s crisis centre numbers, that I accepted there is a binary system that falsely links together “strong women” with lack of violence. I was forced to accept the fact that my feminism, my strength wasn’t preventing violence from seeping into my life any more than my experience with violence made me any less of a feminist.

I had internalized, like so many women, the narrative of “the strong woman.” I remember feeling thrilled as a teenager to hear that I was strong, that I was fierce, that I was smart. These qualities amounted to so much more than any off handed comment about my physical attributes. My heroes were Alice Walker, Virginia Woolf and Queen Elizabeth. I went through my teens and my early twenties with my fist in the air – I wanted nothing more than to cause a riot.

This cloak of the strong woman, which is an almost acceptable cultural stereotype for the feminist, or the single mother, or the marginalized woman who finds success in conventional arenas. They are known for their strength, their fortitude, their willingness to keep getting up no matter how many times they are beaten. We see this character in literature, in films, music culture, and social narratives.

But, like other stereotypes, this depiction of womanhood becomes a dangerous cage for women who don’t exist in monochromatic reality. By subscribing to this idea of myself as the invincible, as the tough-as-nails feminists, I was creating a situation where I wasn’t able to acknowledge, let alone share, the violence that was happening in my life. Read more

Posted on by Lyndsay Kirkham in Can-Con, Feminism, My Reality 6 Comments

The News Media’s Troubled Relationship with Canadian Women

Jarrah Hodge at the Women's Forum 2013 podiumby Jarrah Hodge

I had the honour of speaking at Niki Ashton’s second Women’s Forum des Femmes in Ottawa on Tuesday. I was part of an afternoon session on inequality in the media and was tasked with providing a big picture look at some overarching problems.

Rabble supported the forum and has posted audio of much of the day. I’m embedding the audio of my presentation in case anyone would like to listen to the entire thing, but I’ll also summarize below.

My talk was entitled “The News Media’s Troubled Relationship with Canadian Women”. I started off talking about a study that came out earlier this year from the UK, which found that Canadian women (as well as women in the other countries surveyed) consumed less news and were therefore less informed than Canadian men.

I pointed out the important critiques raised at that time by Equal Voice, which argued the study doesn’t necessarily capture engagement, only knowledge of specific “hard news” facts. But I also noted quotes from some reporters and commentators speculating on the study, including these:

Margaret Wente: “Men keep track of batting averages. Women keep track of weddings. Men are interested in facts, systems, sports, competition, status and keeping score. They use the common ground of sports and politics to bond with other men. Women are interested in relationships, gossip, health, education and their kids. They use the common ground of social information and mutual support to bond with other women.”

Shelley Fralic: “On the day the women-versus-news study was widely reported, the four newspapers in my purview — The Vancouver, Sun, The Province, National Post and The Globe and Mail — provided a glaring example of that masculine point of view, a veritable font of off-putting language, with headline after headline shrieking words like bomb, terrorism, plot, death, radicalization, ultimatum, defiant, pariah, risk, reforms, protests, shocking, target, hate-filled, killing, thwarted, turf, showdown, damage, embattled, savagery, casualties, battle, crisis, sex offences.” (I did note that other than this quote, the rest of the article was ok)

It won’t surprise you I don’t think the problem is women being too preoccupied with wedding news to pay attention. Nor do I think women can’t handle words like “death” and “reforms” (try writing headlines on almost anything without using words in Fralic’s list and you end up with something like “Local Man Gets Bad Boo Boo after Not Nice Encounter With Bus”).

But if women are tuning out the news, maybe part of it is they aren’t being well-represented. As the Vancouver Observer pointed out, women still aren’t equally represented in management of our major media corporations. And 2011 research found women who reach the upper levels are still paid less.

That may or may not be related to the fact that women still don’t get quoted in the news as much as men. Part of this is due to pressures to cut-costs and meet the demands of a new reading public that wants news online and up-to-the minute. This means it’s tempting for reporters to turn to the same sources again and again to save time, even if it’s the same pool of men.

But that doesn’t explain why, when women are quoted, it’s often in different contexts. For example, a 2012 report by Guardian editor Jane Martinson found within the context of front-page newspaper and tabloid stories in Britain, 79% of women were referred to as “victims”, while three-quarters of men were interviewed in the role of “expert”.

Three particular areas of problematic coverage I singled out were women in politics, women in sports, and violence against women.

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

My Reality: I Was Blamed for My Assault

Finger pointing at cameraby Leanore Gough

Trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault, victim-blaming

When I was 16 I worked part-time at a drug store. There I met the man who became my most aggressive assailant: a man in his mid-to-late thirties with very white teeth and just a little grey hair. He came in and made small talk a few times always seeming very friendly. After a few weeks of compliments and big smiles he asked if I wanted to see him on my day off. I agreed. We went out a total of three times. Each time he became more aggressive. On the final time I saw him, we went for drinks.

“I know a place,” he said.

It was a pub down the street from his house. We sat in the back where there weren’t a lot of people. He bought me several drinks, he felt for me under the table with his hands, and eventually he came and sat right beside me. He slid his hand down my back and into the back of my pants. I wanted to go home, I did not feel well, I was uncomfortable.

He tried to be calm, said he’d take me back to his place and I could lay down. When I didn’t want to, he became upset, told me he was disappointed and that he thought I would be a lot more fun. I felt awful and eventually I went with him. By luck I didn’t go up to his apartment. We ran into one of his neighbours outside, and when they stopped to talk I backed away and ran for the train station. I puked in the garbage at the station. He never came back to my work.

As a teenager I was sexually assaulted by a total of six different men. At a concert, at a bar, twice on public transit, at a friend’s house after a movie.

Most of my assailants were between the ages of 30-40 years old. All clean-smelling, safe-looking and smiling.

Even though I remember the incidents and the men so vividly, I have never really described any of them to the people I confide in. No one ever asked. I have been asked: “Are you sure you didn’t want it?” I have been asked: “Are you sure it happened like that?” I have been asked: “Where were your parents?” I have been told I gave consent when I got in his car.

Anyone I ever told knew my home life wasn’t great and then made a judgement based on my class and statistics of kids who come from broken homes, and personal assumptions of what girls like me are like. They didn’t realize or care that all of that was irrelevant. My parents could have been happily married, sober and involved; I still would have gone to concerts, movies, and rode on public transit. I still would have had a part-time job.

No one ever asked: “Why would a grown man think it’s ok to stick his hand down the back of a teenager’s pants?” No one ever asked: “Why did an adult man think it was ok to feed a teenager drinks and assault her?”

The answer, I think, to those questions is very simple. While society knows and largely accepts that the behaviours displayed by my assailant as not ok, no one is really enforcing that idea. According to RAINN, 54% of sexual assaults are never reported. Many that do come forward are faced with the same questions I was faced with.

Instead of being upset or sympathetic towards my situation, the people closest to me were suspicious and even hostile. If keeping girls and women safe is a priority, family and friends need to stop blaming the victims and start looking at the assailants. The pressure needs to be on them. As a society we need to realize that it is not possible to protect women and children from sexual assault unless men are held accountable for assaulting them.

(photo by Pablo Pecora, CC-licensed via Flickr)

Posted on by Leanore Gough in My Reality 1 Comment

Chris Brown and the Culture of Misinformation about Sexual Assault of Men and Boys

Chris Brown performing on stageby Arwen McKechnie

Trigger Warning: discussion of sexual assault, child abuse, victim-blaming.

I’m going to start this with a disclaimer – I don’t like Chris Brown. I don’t like his music and, more importantly, I think he’s a typical example of the kind of man who batters his partner.

He’s never really taken any responsibility for his brutal assault on Rihanna, and seems to feel that rather than getting a slap on the wrist by virtue of his money and success, he has been poorly treated by the media and world at large. He’s sick of talking about, he wants to move on, so why won’t the world just let him be great? It makes me sad for humanity that many people can so easily disconnect his abhorrent personality from his musical and commercial success.

So it’s a new feeling for me to have some sympathy for him, but that’s exactly what I’m feeling right now. Chris Brown effectively told a reporter for The Guardian that he was sexually abused as a child. And based on the content of his interview, he doesn’t even realize it. Sadly, it would appear that his interviewer didn’t realize it either, and that’s where my heart really does break for him.

There’s a moment when rape survivors, especially those that have been assaulted by an acquaintance or potential romantic partner, come to terms with the fact that what happened to them was sexual assault. Some people know it right from the start, but it’s more common than you might think for people to rationalize what happened to them: it was a bad date or it was a mistake, drunken or otherwise, but surely it wasn’t rape. Something went bad, something didn’t feel right, but surely it wasn’t rape. Because if it was, if it really was rape, what does that mean for them now?

This line of thought is sadly common in survivors of sexual assault. Sexual violence is more commonly experienced by women than by men, and women are taught from a very young age that their physical safety, especially their sexual safety, is their own responsibility.

So in the aftermath of a sexual assault, the litany of self-blame begins: if only I hadn’t done this, if only I hadn’t said that, why didn’t I just…, etc, etc. It’s a normal reaction to the years of social conditioning that women receive supposedly teaching them how to prevent themselves from being raped.

At the same time, while some boys and young men are actively taught to be respectful of their partners and themselves and wait for the enthusiastic “yes” rather than just the absence of a “no”, the broader narrative around male sexuality dictates that men must be patient. Men, apparently, always want sex, but must restrain their natural impulses and wait for their partners to be ready.

This myth of the super-charged male sex drive eclipses any possibility that men and young boys may not be ready for sex, may not want to have casual sex, may actually experience sexual assault. Read more

Posted on by Arwen McKechnie in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment
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