violence against women

My Reality: My Rapist Was a Feminist

by Lola Davidson

Trigger Warning: Rape, Mental Abuse

When I first met my rapist, I was 18 years old, I was independent, I believed in equality, I hated the idea of men paying for my dates with them, yet I didn’t consider myself a feminist at the time. I had never been taught about feminism in school or growing up. I knew very little about feminism except that a girl in my school who constantly harassed and physically assaulted me was a feminist, so when I met the man who would come to be my rapist and he asked me whether I was a feminist, I said: “Oh, God no, I am so not a feminist.”

“Why not? Feminism is amazing, it helps so many people,” he responded. I felt embarrassed then, and later on I did my research on the topic, took classes on Women’s Studies and realized that feminism was in fact amazing. Feminism helped me deal with my eating disorders, with past abuse. It helped me understand life so much better. I felt so much admiration for this man because in a world full of misogyny, here was a man who actually took the time to be on our side. What an amazing guy, I thought.

He was constantly praised for being a feminist, especially by me. He started grooming me to act a certain way so that his sexist remarks would fly under the radar. He acted from an unconscious belief that feminism wasn’t supposed to protect all women, just the ones that he felt were worthy of it, and I did not fit into that group.

I always felt the need to laugh off any microagressions he made towards me because if I didn’t, he would point out how flawed I was for getting my feelings hurt. He would praise women who were successful and belittle women who had any chink in their armor.

He was a feminist but girls who went after modelling were stupid, he was a feminist but when I wore a dress and stockings I was asking for it. He was a feminist but my bisexuality meant I owed him a threesome with another girl. He was a feminist but when he was aroused and I was asleep my consent was unnecessary. He was a feminist but calling me a dumb slut and penetrating me while I shook and cried was “not a big deal”. He was a feminist but he mentally abused me for two years because of my gender and how inferior he believed it was to his.

My rapist doesn’t know he raped me because he thinks the label “feminist” protects him from being a bad person – Hell, if someone told him what he did to me was rape, he wouldn’t believe them because I did not physically push him away. To him, my fear was a flaw in my character, not his. However, it doesn’t matter what he believes because your labels do not excuse you from being a monster.

Posted on by Lola Davidson in Feminism, My Reality 1 Comment

Global Lessons from the UN Study on Violence Against Women in Asia

Cover of UN Report "Why do some men use violence against women and how can we prevent it?"by Jarrah Hodge

A new study on violence against women in Southeast Asian countries, by UN Joint Programme Partners for Prevention, is making headlines around the world.

Although the study also has interesting findings on non-sexual, physical violence against women, the findings that seem to have shocked most people were the high numbers of men admitting to rape.

Just under a quarter of men interviewed in the study countries (Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka) admitted to raping a woman or girl. It’s important to note the percentage varied widely between countries, from a low but still troubling 11% in Bangladesh to over 60% in Papua New Guinea. More than half the men said they committed their first assault between the ages of 15 and 19 and nearly half had raped repeatedly.

It’s safe to assume one of the reasons men were so open to admitting assault was that the questions never used the word “rape”. Instead, researchers asked if men had ever: “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex,” or “had sex with a woman who was too drunk or drugged to indicate whether she wanted it.”

About 10 per cent said they have had “non-consensual sex” with a woman who was not their partner, but another 14 per cent admitted it when partners were included in the question.

Less than one quarter served jail time.

So here’s how not to respond to this, white Westerners (with examples from news site comments):

-      ” the study was only done in some of the most backward places on Earth. So it says absolutely nothing about the male of the species.”

-       “and yet we keep letting them come to America on H1B work visas, where the later prey on children.”

-      “Typical Asians, bout time the media reports on these deviants.”

-      ” Dont compare the West to Asia. Ever wondered why all the Asians (Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Pakkis, Koreans etc) are trying to immigrate desperately to the West & not vice-versa ?”

First of all, you can’t make those kind of blanket statements about the region from this (and not just because it’s super racist). The study doesn’t cover all of Southeast Asia, stats varied between countries, and only in Cambodia does the report claim there was balanced geographic representation in the sample.

Second, though there are different issues between and within various countries, there are some common themes that we see happening here. And that means we can’t get on our high, white horse. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism Leave a comment

Letter to the Province on Unhelpful Sex Offender Warnings

by Victoria Redlon

Dear Editor of the Province newspaper,

Every few months your newspaper publishes an RCMP warning regarding the release of a sex offender into our communities (An example can be read here). I am writing to explain how these stories fail to create awareness about the reality of sexual violence towards women and to offer suggestions. This kind of coverage contributes to the disassociation of rape culture for the following three reasons:

1) The RCMP reports are not informative enough about the threat these men pose.  The release areas are so vague that they aid in creating a heightened sense of threat with no sense of location. The nature of their crimes remain a mystery; if they target – say-petite Asian women in their early twenties, or what area and atmosphere they typically troll (such as a local pub, park, etc.). This information along with their method of luring women would make a far better warning to women than a small, softly-worded warning issued by the RCMP. Help women stay safe by informing them of the latest approaches of sexual predators, the exact locations, and who is most likely going to be targeted.

2) Stranger Danger. The focus that this kind of report places on fearing a stranger distracts from the reality of rape. A woman is sexually assaulted every 17 minutes in Canada, of these attacks 80 percent occur in the woman’s home, of this percent 70 percent are committed by a man who is not a stranger. In fact approximately half of all rapes occur on dates. Thus, warning women about a stranger who is being released somewhere for some sexual offense, without reporting on the more common situations, creates a distorted image of sexual violence towards women.  I believe it creates the feeling of isolation amongst women who have fallen victim to non-stranger attacks. The majority of women who are attached then feel alone because they were attacked on a date, or by their local grocery store clerk, or by their father’s friend. The reality of rape is that it happens right in our homes by the men we trust.  This issue seems to elude mass media coverage and public knowledge. Read more

Posted on by Victoria Redlon in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment

Speak Out Against Slapstick Misogyny: A Stern Ethics Rant/Sermon for Hillary Haters

Screen capture from the "Slap Hillary" game, showing a cartoon hand slapping Hillary Clinton's face

Screen capture from the “Slap Hillary” game, showing a cartoon hand slapping Hillary Clinton’s face

by Jessica Mason McFadden

I’m going to take a moment to deliberately not be nice, for the first time on Gender Focus. It’s time to get mad, again, about the archaic scapegoating of women-who-serve-as-public-officials in the guise of slapstick comedy.

If you haven’t already heard, Hillary Clinton is, once again, on the dark side of the news without having done anything to elicit it. A Republican Super PAC, “The Hillary Project,” self-proclaimed as “the only thing standing between Hillary and the White House,” has revived a “Slap Hillary” game that allows “players” to make a Hillary-head speak with the click of a button, and to slap her with another click. These are the only two options in the game. Make her speak and slap her.

The game is simple. Disturbingly so. But there is nothing simple about the message that this game sends about and to women and girls.

Proverbial “slapping” of ambitious women is old, stinky, mothy, moldy hat. Hat with a big hole and fist full of misogyny through it. There is nothing poignant, clever, or funny about it. Anyone who slaps, even virtually, a woman in earnest or in humor has made a cowardly, unfortunate choice. One with many consequences.

Since when is it okay to invoke a visual rhetoric of violence in order to … wait, I’m hard-pressed to even guess as to a motive. It’s certainly not to promote a political position, that’s for sure. As a matter of fact, it has nothing at all to do with governmental politics. Let’s call it what it is: what’s we’re dealing with is the politics of misogyny, plain and simple. Take the donkey vs. elephant element out of this because that’s the guise misogyny’s hiding behind.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and trust in my personal ethics enough to believe that most rational people who read this article will find themselves in agreement. For starters, people should not be slapped for being outspoken and staking a political or intellectual position. Not Palin. Not Clinton. Not your mother. Not your sister. Not your daughter. Not your brother. No one. If you’re truly angry, then find a productive, non-violent, non-bullying way of expressing it. Advance society rather than devolving it. It can’t be that hard to talk about issues rather than slapping people, right?

Sometimes we need to growl that collective growl, and let loose a big: Humanity, get your shit together! Read more

Posted on by Jessica Mason McFadden in Feminism, Politics 1 Comment

Norma Bastidas Continues Her Journey to End Violence

normaby Jarrah Hodge

On June 23, Vancouverite Norma Bastidas will be running a half marathon in a wedding dress. Specifically, she’s leading WAVAW’s (Women Against Violence Against Women) team in the Scotiabank Half Marathon to raise awareness of violence against women in intimate relationships, an issue that has a personal meaning for her.

Norma first started running for stress release about seven years ago when her oldest child was diagnosed with Cone-Rod Dystrophy, a disease that was causing him to lose his sight. A close friend was training to run the Boston Marathon and Norma started training with her.

“Within six months I ran my first half marathon. Eight months later I ran my first marathon and qualified for Boston,” she told me.

“There were things in my life I couldn’t control, but I could control training,” she added.

For her first runs she reached out to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and asked if she could help support them through her running and tying that to the story of what she and her son were going through. She said that work for her is about challenging complacency and showing it’s possible to make a difference:

“Things can change; you just need to work harder.”

The response to her telling her story was overwhelming and positive, but it made Norma realize there was another piece of her experience she hadn’t talked publicly about: her experience as a child victim of family violence and sexual assault. She found it incredibly difficult to acknowledge that past and deal with her feelings of shame even though she knew it wasn’t her fault.

“I was questioning, did I do everything I could to protect myself?” she said. But ultimately she decided she had to help other victims by breaking the silence:

“I used to be dealing with nightmares but now I’m tackling dreams. I want people to know you can go through this and survive and thrive.”

Among the dreams she’s taken on, in 2009 Norma became the fastest woman in history to run seven of the planet’s most unforgiving environments on seven continents in seven months.

In late 2012 Norma made a monumental and symbolic journey to get out her message about ending violence. Over 80 days, Norma ran an ultra-marathon spanning 2,600 miles from Vancouver to her birthplace of Mazatlan. She told the Vancouver Sun:

When I began my journey to Mazatlan, I found that many people assumed that I was running against violence in Mexico – a place that for them has become a symbol of violence. Being Mexican and still very close to my heritage and country, I am saddened by the violence Mexico is facing, but I am also saddened that this violence defines my country to many people. Mexico, too, is much more than the injustices it has suffered.

What’s important to remember is that despite the safety and security issues in some parts of Mexico, violence is a global epidemic. It does not belong to or affect just one gender, one race or one country. Violence does not discriminate.

893210_10151505519558330_1718891362_oRunning the half-marathon with WAVAW is a natural fit with Norma’s ongoing anti-violence activism. The message she hopes to send by running in a wedding dress is “to signify it’s okay to be in a relationship but only if the person treats you the way you should be treated. No respect, no relationship.”

At this point she knows she could walk away from activism, find another job and challenge herself less, but she says: “just because I have a way out doesn’t mean I should take it.” She knows what she went through is what other women and girls are living with every day.

“I either watch it happen or do something about it,” she told me, “We’re all in this together.”

Click here for information on how to support Norma and the rest of the WAVAW team.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

New Feminist Apps Tackle Dating Violence, Street Harassment

notyourbabyby Jarrah Hodge

Back in 2011 Gender Focus contributor Roxanna Bennett reported on YWCA Canada’s Safety Siren app, which gave women and girls a way to use their smart phones to learn about dating violence and easily send an emergency signal if ever in danger.

Now, other Canadian non-profits are adapting our new technology to give young women new, on-the-spot tools to fight violence and harassment.

Toronto non-profit METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children) launched their “Not Your Baby” app last fall after they heard many people saying they didn’t know how to deal with harassment on the spot. The app provides a technological solution to help people as they experience harassment. People using the app select where they are and what kind of harassment they are experiencing and the app pops up helpful suggestions. Users can also submit their own suggestions for how to deal with these kinds of difficult situations.

METRAC Communications Director Andrea Gunraj told me that over 250 people responded to their survey in the lead-up to creating the app: “We found that people had a diversity of responses depending on the context and situation of the harassment. I learned a lot reading peoples’ comments and stories and felt that ideas on dealing with harassment at school were so smart, especially when it’s not easy to make a complaint or the person harassing you is a friend.”

Gunraj is pleased by the media coverage and positive feedback they’ve had so far. Being out there alongside other campaigns like Hollaback! and Stop Street Harassment, Gunraj is optimistic that more people are becoming aware of harassment as an issue, but warns “we have a long way to go before harassment is seen as unacceptable in any space – street, home, work, malls, public transit, and so on. There is still the idea that some people are ‘fair game’ for harassment just by virtue of who they are.”

Another new initiative has come out of BC, where the Ending Violence Association has partnered with Telus on an app for women who are at a high risk of violence. The SOS Response app is being piloted in Prince George, Courtenay, Terrace, Vernon and Surrey. Local assistance programs in those communities are identifying at-risk women and providing them with a phone with the app installed. The app is very simple for a woman in crisis to use. All she has to do is press a button and the phone takes 30 photos in 30 seconds, which are sent to the security monitoring centre along with GPS information.

“The SOS mobile monitored alarm app is an easy-to-use, cost-efficient tool that will increase safety for women across Canada who are fleeing violence,” said Tracy Porteous, Executive Director of EVA BC. “The program is also a great example of community and business working together in the most positive of ways.”

Of course,these kinds of apps aren’t enough in and of themselves. As Gunraj told me about “Not My Baby”, “It’s a simple app and not an end-all solution, but it’s just one way of broadening the dialogue.”  If new technology can be leveraged in this way to give useful information and help women and girls feel safer and more empowered in their space, that’s a huge step in the right direction.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment

Youth Can Prevent Violence Against Women & Girls

infographicRe-posted with permission from the Battered Women’s Support Services Ending Violence blog.

1. Use Social Media-Social media has an empowering effect send articles, with the click of a button, you can spread the word. Youth do not need the mainstream media to voice their views!

2. Report- Report photos that exploit girls and young women when you see them on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram

3. Be media literate and critical-Be critical of what you see otherwise it become normalized and we are desensitized! The media regularly uses images of violence against women and objectifies girls and women to sell products. Women are also objectified in movies, music and magazines. If you see an ad or commercial that is sexist and degrading towards women – write or e-mail the company and don’t by their products. Read more

Posted on by Battered Women's Support Services in Can-Con, Feminism 2 Comments