I have been advocating in a volunteer capacity for many years, working alongside other advocates and agencies to educate people in our community about Domestic Violence, gender based violence and Rape Culture. People ask me all the time why do I do this work? Why do I continue to identify as a Survivor of DV and Rape? Can’t I just get over it? The simplest answer is, “No.”
I can’t “get over it” because being assaulted changes you. It changes who you were and who you could have become. It changes everything about your life, even though from the outside everything looks the same, normal, it’s not. Because you’re not.
I can’t stop advocating, joining committees and Advisory Boards because women are still being abused and murdered by their partners, women are still being raped and women and those who identify as a woman are still at risk of gender based violence every day. And it makes me angry, furious, in fact, when I hear stories from women with the same underlying theme: women are not valued. Women are viewed as sexual objects who are in existence for the pleasure of men. That sounds harsh to some people, but it’s the truth and it’s about time we just called the Patriarchy and Misogyny out and brought them into the light and call them what they are. I am so frustrated that still women live in fear just because of their gender; it’s not right. I don’t know what has to be done to wake people up and demand change in the systems and schools of thought that continue to keep women down with the heel of misogyny on their throats. But I want a Revolution. I want to see women marching in our streets and their empathetic men along with them, demanding that the government stop creating committees and studies on this “issue” and actually do something. I want to see people calling abuse and rape exactly what it is and calling it out when they see it and doing something about it. I want children to be empowered to say, “No,” to uninvited or unwanted touching. I want girls to know that their body is theirs and they, and only they, decide what happens to it. I want boys to know it’s okay to cry, to get mushy over puppies and kittens and to express their feelings because they are allowed to have feelings. I want gender stereotypes to no longer be perpetuated and people to be seen as the human beings that they are; not just as colours or genitalia.
The judicial system is not effective in addressing the issues either because the Judges and lawyers are not trained to appropriately handle cases of violence against women. We have judges telling women to keep their knees together, lawyers who are indifferent to the victims of these crimes, police who do not believe women and make them feel like they are liars. The prison system is ineffective, if the perpetrators even get jail time, and it does nothing to address the cause(s) for men committing these violent acts. Nothing is done to rehabilitate them or teach them how to be healthy instead of harmful. They come out of prison even more angry and violent and continue the cycle over and over. People think the “justice system” will be the end all be all, but it’s not. The system revictimizes women and children, punishes men and treats them like pariahs, causing irreparable emotional and psychological damage. There is no “justice” for a victim of DV or Rape.
Almost thirteen years ago, I fled the USA with my three children to get away from out abuser. The system that was supposed to help us and protect us failed miserably. Our abuser was enabled by the system to continually stalk, harass and financially abuse us. My children spent most of their childhood knowing about court dates and lawyers and police reports and visits from social workers. They were traumatized over and over by the very institutions that were supposed to protect them.
And children are still going through this every day. Mothers are still struggling to protect their children and themselves and not just from their abusers, but from systems that are broken, ineffective and callous. This has to change. We need specialized DV courts with trained lawyers and judges and we need lawyers for victims. We need police to be trained in DV and sexual assault so women don’t feel harassed or disbelieved when they report. We need society to stop treating women and girls as commodities, objects to be used up and thrown away. Women must be believed when they report abuse and rape. Society needs to see women and girls as people with human rights that should be protected and upheld just as they are for men. Women need to support one another and lift each other up. We need to stand together against the Patriarchy and misogyny. It’s not enough to wear a pin or button. We have to act. We have to make change happen because it clearly is not going to happen organically. These have been issues since the beginning of time. Perhaps the best this we can do is stop calling Domestic Violence and Violence against Women “women’s issues” and recognize they are Human Rights issues.
At the end of the day, what women want is Fundamental Rights. The same rights men are afforded just by being born with a penis. It sounds so simple, yet it’s been the most deadly and devastating battle in history.