Your grudge is showing!

February 28 marked the end of the child support agreement I had with Jason. The last support payment was paid, the ties were finally broken and I was finally free. I relished in this, despite people asking if the “loss” of the child support was going to cause hardship. Of  course, the money was helpful, but ending a bond I didn’t want for the last 14 years was so worth it!

A week after the last support payment went into my bank account, I received a card in the mail. It said “Thinking if you” and inside it said “Loosing this money will be difficult, but as you always say, you are a “Survivor”. Good luck. Lorie  I had no idea who “Lorie” is and knew no close friend of mine would ever misspell “losing”, so I assumed it was someone from the Steering Committee of my position as Community Navigator trying to be thoughtful because my contract was ending. Weird, but I assumed she was trying to be nice. Later, while in the shower, the penny dropped; holy shit! I knew who “Lorie” is! She is Jason’s partner, a woman who strongly dislikes me and thinks he is a “good person”. I was in disbelief, incredulous and then I was pissed off. Really? You send a sympathy card because child support is no longer going to be paid to your partner’s kids? Is she really so spiteful that she sends a card to me? I couldn’t believe the pettiness! I shared the card on Facebook and it was widely shared. After a few days I realized it was more likely sent by Jason himself, hiding behind Lorie like a shield, knowing he could be accused of harassment. What a coward. What an ass!

Even when our agreement has ended, he still has to inject himself in to my  life and try to cause me harm. This is not a man who has changed, who is “good”. This is a man who hates that he lost; his wife, his kids, his control. This is a man whom is still very angry and would no doubt cause further harm to me if given the opportunity.

I moved on and went about my business. I was scheduling for surgery at the end of March and so had far more important matters to think about than Jason and his vindictive nature.

This past week, two of my children  received messages from “Lorie” telling them to watch a Dr. Phil episode that had aired a couple weeks before. Again, the grammar and spelling was terrible. The messages said, “What do you have to loose?” God, I cannot believe I was married to that man… so stupid. Him, not me.

The kids showed me the messages and asked what I thought. I think they were nervous because a few years ago,  Jason had tried to trick me and my eldest daughter in to goingnon the Dr. Phil show. I think they were concerned that he may have gone on the show after all. We looked up the episode, read the synopsis and then had a good laugh. It was about an abusive man trying to prove his wife had brainwashed his children in to thinking that they and their mother were abused. I am sure to Jason, this episode struck a chord as he will still tell anyone who will listen how I manipulated the judicial system and brainwashed my kids into to believing they were assaulted and abused by him.

My daughter replied to the message with a scathing reply. Ending with “Has he touched your kid yet?” Jason and Lorie have a son together, and my kids have always had concern for his safety and well-being,  My son retweeted the twitter message Lorie sent to him quoting it and adding comments that were both insightful and concise. If you won’t admit your wrong doing, how can you expect forgiveness? Though, Jason never asked for forgiveness from the kids. He told them they were liars and that none of the abuse they suffered actually happened.

Fourteen years after I left our abusive marriage, Jason still thinks he has the right to inject himself in to our lives, stir up trouble and take shots at me. A few years ago, this kind of thing would have triggered PTSD episodes and I would be feeling anxious and agitated. But, years of intensive therapy, I am no longer so easily triggered. Now, I am just shaking my head at his desperation. He once told me he lived his life “in peace and harmony most of the time”. This behaviour does not support that claim, but perhaps it’s just some of the time that he still thinks about me and how I escaped his control. I feel sorry for Jason. And his partner, Lorie. He cannot be living a fulfilling life if he is still so angry. And I wonder if she has any idea he is using her name to come after me. If she does, then they definitely deserve each other. I just hope that they are finally done with me and my kids and will get on with living their own life and stop trying to interfere with mine.

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Divorce and Poverty

There is a consistent theme to domestic violence and divorce that people don’t recognize or even understand; poverty. When a woman leaves her abuser, she is six times more likely to be murdered by him. She is 100 per cent likely to be financially abused and forced to live in poverty and very likely to go bankrupt.

Women lose assets when they leave an abusive marriage; house, vehicle, equity, retirement savings etc. What they “gain” is legal fees, court dates, job loss and stigma. Women face more abuse from their ex-spouse in the form of stalking and harassment, often including unexpected and intrusive “visits” to their place of employment causing employers to become frustrated and co-workers to feel unsafe. Though it is undeniably unfair,  many employers feel the only recourse they have to fire the woman. Sometimes a woman will lose several jobs consecutively, leaving her feeling helpless and hopeless. She will end up on Ontario Works and be plunged headfirst into abject poverty with little hopes of getting out.

Abusers hate losing, they do not accept being told “no” and they do not like to lose control. When a woman leaves her abuser, he will use any means available or necessary to regain control. This will often mean withholding support, stalling on the sale of the matrimonial home and, most common, use Family Court to keep her tied to him with frequent court hearings and motions which will cost her money that she simply does not have. I have heard far too many women say that their exes have warned that they will “destroy” her if she leaves and realize he was  true to his word as she struggles to pay her bills, keep a roof over her head and put food on the table. She often will have her children at least half the time which will add to her financial responsibilities. It will also magnify her distress as she feels guilty for not being to provide for her children the way she used to.

Too often I have sat with women as they cry, feeling overwhelmed and hopeless about their future as her abuser continues to use Family Court to further abuse her. Even more frustrating is that the courts allow it to happen. They allow men to bring motions forward to request minimal and ridiculous changes to current Orders or request new Orders regarding custody and access and support that leave women no choice but to concede. Concession often means she is not receiving the financial support she and her children are entitled to and that any money she already should have been receiving is relinquished, leaving her with more legal fees and financial hardship.

Financial hardship and poverty is not just a struggle for her, but it sometimes leads to custody issues. Child Protective Services seem to take issue when a woman needs to have her children sharing space (ie bedrooms) when she cannot afford housing that gives each child their own bedroom. Knowing that she does not have money to provide all the extras a child may need, such as seasonal clothing, school supplies, extracurricular activities etc., will sometimes lead them the recommend that she have less access than her abuser because he can provide these things. This is completely unfair and irrelevant to the quality of care she is giving her children. This is also an added insult to injury as CPS are often very judgemental of women in abusive relationships and will threaten to remove her children from her care if she doesn’t get the abuser out of the home or leave herself. They do not offer to connect her with supportive services, nor do they put their recommendations in to writing so she has some sort of leverage in court to support her claim for sole custody.

People think when a woman leaves, the abuse ends. It doesn’t. People think that when she is fighting for her equitable share of assets she is a gold digger. She is not. People think when she fights to keep her children safe she is trying to punish her abuser. She is not. Women leave their abusers when they can because they have to in order to survive. They do not deserve to be judged or isolated or stigmatized for it. They do not deserve to be financially destroyed and the courts should not allow it.

It’s no surprise to those of us who advocate for victims of domestic violence that poverty becomes a way of life, particularly those of us who are also Survivors. That resignation is what is the problem. The fact that society either expects it, enables it or ignores it is what leaves women vulnerable, hopeless and defeated. Divorce should not mean poverty for women. Your mother, sister, friend, teacher, co-worker….they all deserve better.

 

Trauma stole my joy

I have been working with a psychologist for sometime to work through some trauma from the abuse I suffered in my marriage. We have been using EMDR as a means to help me process through particularly painful episodes of abuse which have caused me to suffer from PTSD. Before we began the EMDR, the psychologist asked me questions about my childhood, my family, my upbringing, my friends. She was building a timeline, trying to pinpoint episodes of trauma which were still causing me pain. Trauma comes in many forms and there were episodes that I didn’t even remember until I began this therapy. The sessions are intense, emotional and painful. I leave the office feeling drained, exhausted and often need to go home and sleep.  I’ve  begun having vivid nightmares  and flashbacks. I have panic attacks and moments of fear and anxiety that are not related to the “now” but are somehow triggered by where I am and/or what I am doing. I also began remembering episodes of trauma that were “unlocked” by the EMDR. This is very common as our brains process events, and as we begin to heal, other painful events surface as we are able to cope with them. I have had to take breaks from the sessions to give myself time to heal; the memories of the trauma bring back the darkness and pain and sometimes have me feeling hopeless, worthless and unworthy.

I am 46 years old and still feeling the effects of childhood trauma. I have been divorced from my abuser for 14 years and I am still feeling the effects of the domestic violence I lived with in my marriage. The wounds are deep and lasting and leave me feeling defensive, protective and cautious. Trust does not come easy and I am prone to assuming that people do not value me because I am, of course, not worthy. I expect bad things to happen to me because, of course, I deserve it. When I encounter a situation that leaves me feeling unsure, I automatically assume the worst because, of course, good things don’t happen to people like me. This is what abandonment, sexual assault and abuse  do to a person’s psyche.

People think that because something happened “a long time ago” that it should not affect you anymore. They think that seeing a counsellor or psychologist means that you are healed and you should be “over it” by now. But that is not how it works. Science has proven that childhood trauma such as abuse, abandonment, divorce changes a child’s DNA; it changes who they are and who they could have been had the trauma not happened. When you experience multiple events of trauma in your lifetime, the effects cannot be erased, no matter how much therapy you get. You are now a product of the trauma. However, the brain can process the trauma and the messages received by the trauma can be changed. You can learn how to navigate the world with newly attained tools that help you to feel more secure and be productive and find happiness.

Trauma stole my ability to be happy, to see a future for myself and expect anything other hurt and disappointment. My psychologist showed me the timeline she constructed after our many sessions talking about my life; it was full of traumatic events. From the time I was a small child, I have experienced various traumatic events that shaped the person I was. It was very upsetting to realize that I had suffered so much; clearly I must somehow be deserving of pain if I have been subjected to so much of it. A year later, I know that this is not so. I know that I am a good person, I know I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I know that I am worthy of love. I am empowered and in charge of my life. And while my therapy is not yet finished, I no longer dread my sessions but attend with the knowledge that the pain is now temporary and I will get through it and I will be okay.

This is how I explain trauma to people: trauma causes a wound on our soul. If we cannot handle the pain, our brain hides the trauma from us and protects us from the pain. But, it is still there. It will cause us to be triggered, reactive and can cause mental illness such as depression or anxiety. Sometimes we will behave in ways that do not seem like ourselves, we act out by taking unhealthy risks, engaging in dangerous activities or having toxic relationships. This is the wound of the trauma festering, poisoning our lives and making it impossible to feel genuine joy. We do not feel we deserve happiness, we do not know what security and safety are so we do not seek it out. The festering wound continues to poison us until we finally break down. We may begin to feel physical symptoms such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia or autoimmune disorders. We may suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD. When we seek help, not just for the physical ailments, but also for the mental and emotional pain, we are able to find this festering wound and take care of it. We are able to peel off the scab that our brain used to hide the pain from us and allow the poison drain out. We can allow ourselves to feel the pain, the anger, the hurt and confusion and work through it. We are cleaning out the poison and allowing ourselves to heal. The wounds will close, but there will always be a scar. We will forever be marked by the trauma, but we are no longer being poisoned by it.

Scars remind us of what we suffered, but they also remind us what we have overcome. We learn to value ourselves and believe that we are important. We learn that we did not deserve what happened to us; we are not bad, we did not ask for it. We learn to empower ourselves and trust ourselves. We learn how to hope, see a future and create happiness for ourselves.

As a Survivor Advocate, I am able to use my experiences to educate others about the effects of sexual assault and domestic violence. I am able to be an ally to victims and other survivors and support them on their journey to healing and empowerment. Without support from my allies, I could not have made the journey and come out on the other side knowing that I am worthy, I am important, I am strong. And even when the darkness tries to creep in, I know how to face it and not be afraid. I reach for those who have always been there to hold me up and keep me from sliding down into that abyss of pain and fear. Survivors are the strongest people I know. And while most are women, I do know some male Survivors who may have a different experience, but the trauma still impacts us in the same way; it steals our joy. Together, we can hold on to our joy and continue on a path of healing. Together we continue to speak up for those who have not yet found their voice. We march and rally and protest to educate people with the purpose bringing understanding and of making change. We stand in solidarity to protect one another and be a visible reminder that there are too many of us and there will be more Survivors if we don’t all work together to change attitudes and social norms that allow assault and abuse to be normalized and accepted.

 

Keep Looking Forward

Breathe. You made it though the holidays, maybe in pieces, but here you are. So breathe, take a minute to give yourself kudos for making it through. You will work on picking up the little pieces of yourself that were chipped away with every disappointment, frustration, limitation and hardship that you faced and with each one tell yourself, ” I am doing best. My best is good enough.”

I have been in your shoes. Hell, I am in your shoes. Though I have been apart from my abuser for almost 14 years, I remember viscerally what it was like those first few years, facing the holidays with a knot in my stomach and my heart in my throat, close to tears daily… barely holding on. It was heart wrenching knowing that I could not give my children the kind of Christmas (or Easter or birthday or, or, or…) that they had when we lived in an upper middle class family. I felt so inadequate and impotent. I felt angry and desperate because we were now living in poverty, as so many women and children do after she leaves her abuser, and I could not provide for them the way he used to. I dreaded the holidays, and though I tried to hide this dread from my kids, I know they felt it. However, I showed them that we could make new traditions that were about us; safe and together. It was difficult to know that their faces would show disappointment rather than joy when they saw the meager gifts I was able to give them. Jason never offered to help with Santa gifts, never sent gifts to the children. But he did do everything he could to make the holidays scary and sad and difficult, particularly for me. He never missed an opportunity to tell me that I was lying in the bed I had made for us all and the fact that the children and I had next to nothing was my own fault. I left, so tough shit that the children and I are living poverty. He used to belittle the fact that we live in rent geared to income housing, snidely calling me a “welfare mom”. I was working at minimum wage job, full time when I could, to provide for my children. But we all know that is not enough. Jason never let an opportunity to remind me just how inadequate I was as a provider, as a mother because we were poor. Money was always his biggest motivator and he looked down on those who didn’t have it. Even his children and their mother.

My children took away some tough but valuable lessons from all of this; materialistic ideals are not important. They do not make you who you are or who you want to become; “stuff” is just stuff. What is important is family, love, laughter, kindness and compassion. My children are three of the most kind, empathetic, socially aware persons I know. They are resilient and tough and have hearts that are warm and giving. They are amazing people. I know that they became this way, in part, because of the battles they faced, the hardships they overcame. I also acknowledge that it is also in part because I am a good mother.

I am a good mother. It took a long time for me to be able to say this and believe it. And you will be able to say it, too, someday with conviction and confidence. Believe that, believe in yourself.

The path you are on right now is difficult to navigate, there are many bumps and potholes along the way. You will face hardships you never knew before and battles that feel hopeless. You are caught in the wheels of a broken and slow moving System that does not care about victims of domestic violence. In truth, it does not care about women at all. You will suffer injustices that will likely leave you reeling with incredulity and anger. This is the truth and it sounds insurmountable. However, you will get through it. None of this is as difficult as the battles you have already faced, surviving domestic violence and getting out. You are tough as nails, even if you don’t realize it yet. I’m telling you; you are!

So breathe. You made it through the holidays. Now, one foot in front of the other, looking forward. You got this.

Is Anyone Listening?

Recently, I was part of a project spearheaded by our local woman’s shelter and Algonquin college. The project is a video, which will be a mandatory component of the Victimology program. It is meant to shed light on the rural realities of domestic violence. There were five women, including myself, who were filmed telling their stories, sharing their truth, and talking about their journey from survivor to advocate. It is an important and impactful project. It was an honour to be asked to participate. It was also triggering and difficult and brought up so many memories for me.  I found myself feeling anxious, distracted and apathetic. I just could not seem to get my shit together on a daily basis; I couldn’t focus on tasks, felt disengaged from my work and my friends. I felt distant from my boyfriend and even questioned his commitment to me and our relationship. However, he stood by me and was supportive and sympathetic to what I was going through.
The night the film was being launched was December 6th. This is the National Day of Action to end violence against women. The Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Committee, of which I am a member, hosted a Vigil at the Women’s Monument in Perth, Ontario. After the Vigil, the film was presented for community members to watch. None of my family or lifetime friends came to support me at the vigil or the film. What is so telling to me, is that the man I am in relationship with, a man I have known barely 6 months, was there. He always shows up, holds my hand and is present and that is such a surprise to me. I genuinely feel that he is a gift to me. For years,  I have been feeling so unsure if I am truly lovable after all the trauma of my childhood, adulthood and my marriage.   Since I began dating, I have met abusive, controlling men and wondered if I am a magnet for them or something, or if old habits do not die after all. I really felt that these messages of “you’re unlovable, you’re not worthy, you’re not important,” that I have received most of my life, are true. My boyfriend is showing me with his love and kindness, that I am lovable. My newfound friends and allies are showing me with their solidarity and strength that I am worthy, I am important.
My family and longtime friends, have never supported my advocacy work. They have never come to an event I have organized or come to hear me speak or support me at a march, a rally etc. With the exception of my father, who has been my protector, my champion and my biggest supporter from the “back of the room”. He, too, suffers because of my abusive marriage and finds it difficult to be in places where he is triggered. I empathize and I understand and I know he is always there in spirit.
I did not share many personal experiences about my abuse the day of the filming. Every time I tried to write  the words down, I couldn’t. Every time I tried to speak, I felt like I was choking. So, I said what I really needed people to hear, what I really needed to say: I’m a survivor, but more so an advocate. And this is why.
I do get tired of talking, tired of explaining, tired of sharing and allowing myself to become vulnerable to strangers, only to have my words fall on deaf ears. I often feel like I am walking alone on this road to make change and sometimes I wonder if the physical, mental, emotional toll it takes on me is worth it. My doctors tell me I should not be working a job because I am not well, but I love my community and want to help the people here. I have the knowledge, the empathy and the passion to do so and I want to. I also know that I cannot provide for my family on the meager amount I receive  from  the Ontario Disability Support Program. Most importantly, I do it because someone has to. My grandmother, my hero, taught me that if you see a need and you can fill it, then you must do so. It is not enough to be compassionate or to empathize, you must DO something. And so, I do.
I have been seeking out connections with people who understand, who share my passion to make change and who will be there. That is why the women who were part of the video project and the women from the Shelter who brought us together are ALL so important to me. That is why I feel so empowered when I’m with them.  That is why I hope we can continue to meet and share and laugh and support one another. I am so grateful to have them all in my life. They keep me strong.
I cannot share the film here until rules of copyright has been decided on. I want the world to see it because I know that our realities are the realities of women and children living in rural areas in any country. Isolation keeps abusers strong and victims silent. Apathy and deliberate ignorance keeps abusers powerful and leaves women and children living in fear and, too often, leads to  their demise. People need to speak up and speak out against domestic violence. Women and children are dying and we need everyone to take notice, become outraged and ACT.
For information on how you can help, visit See It, Name It, Change It on Facebook.

The System is Broken

The SYSTEM is broken.

It is as broken as her wrist, her arm, her collarbone

Her Heart

Her Spirit.

Every 6 days in this country a woman is murdered by her abuser.

Tonight, more than 3400 women and over 2700 children will sleep in shelters

Because it is not safe at home.

300 more women will be turned away

Forced to roam the streets or worse

Go home.

The numbers do not lie. They tell us what we don’t want to see

With our eyes but know in our heart

How many more women must die?

The SYSTEM is chained

to a cinder block called tradition, formed by the philosophy

that comes from a history of misogyny that says,

All women are liars.

It is sinking in a pit of Patriarchy

Where every woman is scrutinized and scorned

Because she “asked for it”, she stayed, and she stayed silent.

The SYSTEM is ineffective in being protective

Of the women and children

Lost in the wasteland we call Family Law.

Ignoring the cries of the women who are only believed

To be crying wolf, we turn a blind eye while

Women are dying.

The SYSTEM knows no justice

Police don’t believe victims but blame them for their assault

Lawyers are cynical, judges are oblivious

About the realities of Domestic Violence;

In their cinderblock world Violence Against Women

Doesn’t exist.

The SYSTEM is obtuse

believing that if it is “so bad” she will leave.

But where can she go?

Shelters are few and far between,

Faced with poverty or violence

She will lie with the devil she knows even though

She owes him her life and any day now

He will collect.

The SYSTEM is bankrupt

Victim services and crisis workers make miracles happen every day

On a shoestring budget, they do more with less

While the number of deaths continues to rise

How many more women will die because

The man who loves her KILLS HER?

The SYSTEM is Capitalist

Seeing women only as consumable commodities

Valued only for the size of their tits

And their child bearing hips

Women and girls are not equal,

not seen as people

And so are not worthy of protection.

The SYSTEM is failing

When she stays she is blamed,

When she leaves she is shamed,

If she dares to take a risk

She is 6 times more likely to be killed by her abuser

Danger doesn’t end with a change of address.

The SYSTEM is sick

It’s time to burn it down to the ground

Fuel the fire with this oath:

Enough bruises and broken bones

Enough tears and trauma

Enough children left motherless.

From the ash we will rebuild with this promise:

I SEE you, I HEAR you

I BELIEVE you

The SYSTEM is broken

It is as broken as her wrist her arm her collarbone

Her heart

Her spirit

Why We Need Slut Walk

Three years ago I founded Slut Walk Lanark County. I created a Facebook page and started getting the word out. I formed a committee to help organize our first event and recruit supporters. Many people I spoke with in the field of  advocating for women supported me and were excited to finally have a Slut Walk in our County. In September 2014 was launched at a Take Back The Night event in Carleton Place. The local newspaper wrote about it, and there was a small buzz created. But when it came time to organize the inaugural march, the community was not supportive. Businesses refused to sponsor the March or put posters up, schools would not allow me to come speak to students and some of the organizations that supported SWLC were threatened with funding being pulled if they associated themselves with SWLC. Though the need for Slut Walk was glaringly apparent in Lanark County, it was not supported and so, the inaugural march was postponed. Public education was going to be the focus of the local chapter with a view to organizing a march in the future.

The progress of creating public awareness about what Slut walk is about and why we need it in our County has been  slow and uphill. At other events meant to educate people about rape culture, domestic violence and gender based violence, I would be there, talking about Slut Walk and handing out pamphlets and posters. People were not receptive and even refused my posters because the word “Slut” was on them. This word is so offensive to people that they cannot even touch a paper with the word printed on it. This made me frustrated, no, angry, because women and girls are called Sluts every day and we have to just live with it, accept it as normal, as okay. But, it’s not!

There have been many movements addressing rape culture and violence against women: #YesAllWomen, #TheGhomeshiEffect, #IBelieveVictims, Slut Walk, HollaBack, Take Back the Night, to name a few. These movements are necessary, unfortunately, but not overly effective, obviously. Women are still being assaulted and raped, women still feel unsafe walking alone at night (or in the daytime, in public, really), women and girls are sexualized and objectified, we are slut shamed and blamed, cat called and groped etc. We are told that “boys will be boys” and we shouldn’t take it so personally. We are told to dress in a way to not draw attention to ourselves, to our breasts or buttocks, our legs or tummies.  We are taught how to protect ourselves if we are attacked, to carry our keys between our fingers, to check under and inside our cars  before getting in them. We are accused of lying when we report assault or rape. Women are not valued, not protected, not believed. We are not equal; in 2017 women are not viewed as anything more than sex objects and body parts. This makes me furious.

A friend wrote on her Facebook timeline about her thirteen year old daughter and friend being cat called and verbally assaulted while walking home from the store. The girls were so shocked by what was being shouted across the road at them they could not react. When the men became more aggressive in their language, calling them sluts and whores, the girls became frightened and ran the rest of the way home. My friend had to console and reassure these frightened and confused girls, which was difficult. But, even more difficult, she had to speak to them about how to protect themselves next time this happens, because it will happen again. And again. And again. Reading her post, tears filled my eyes as I felt so sorry for these girls having to experience this. My tears burned my eyes and then anger, no rage, burned my heart, my gut. This should not be happening! Not just in our community, but anywhere. Girls should not be subjected to the whims of men who think they own girls’ bodies and have a right to leer at them and call out obscenities.

When I was promoting the inaugural march for Slut Walk Lanark County, many people, some of them friends, complained about the name. There was much debate about the name of Slut Walk and even with explanation and information, people, mostly women, expressed a strong dislike for the name. They were offended over the word “Slut” and wondered why this word had to be used; is repulsive and crude. And they are right about that, it is. And women know because we hear it thousands of times during our life as boys and men hurl it at us as an insult or threat, other girls and women use it accusingly to judge and belittle one another, police officers and lawyers and judges use it to diminish the claims of sexual assault and rape, making it the victim’s fault. Women hear the word Slut and worse so many times in our lives that we almost accept it as part of the landscape of womanhood. But, this apathy, this acceptance is dangerous. It allows men to continue to sexualize and objectify us, our daughters, our sisters, our mothers our friends… We must not tolerate this language, this behaviour any longer. We must stand in Solidarity and fight back.

Rural communities are less forward thinking than urban areas. The exposure to diversity and social justice is very limited. The moral codes and social norms are often carried over from the previous generations because things have “always been this way” and so they are accepted as correct. People don’t speak out against racism, homophobia, misogyny etc. because much of the time they don’t even recognize it for what it is. Slut shaming and victim blaming is what happens when a woman is assaulted; obviously she was asking for it. Look how she was dressed, where she was, how much she drank, her reputation, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Much of the time, girls and women don’t even realize they have been assaulted or raped, or if they do, they don’t report it because they either don’t think they have a right to protection or they don’t think they will be believed. Women live in domestic violence and don’t even realise that they do not have to live with violence because they witnessed it growing up or have been experiencing abuse most of their lives. Domestic violence is their normal. Girls are taught that their value weighs heavily on whether or not they have a boyfriend and, later on, a husband, because they are not valuable in their own right.

This is why I founded Slut walk Lanark County. This is why I sit on the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Committee, why I sit on the board for Peggy’s House, why I volunteer at Interval House. This is why I show up and speak out. I grew up in this community and I have raised my children here. I lived within the bubble filled with rape culture and homophobia and misogyny. But I did not teach my children to accept these things; I taught them to be different, to be advocates for themselves and others, to be feminists.

Feminism needs to be taught in schools, modelled and demonstrated. Parents need to teach their children that all people are equal and have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Generational views that are patriarchal and misogynist must not be carried on, but called what they are and abandoned. The only way we are truly going to keep girls and women safe is to accept nothing less than absolute equality. I feel sick knowing that my girls have grown up in rape culture. I am disheartened that younger girls are still growing up in it and that adults are still allowing it to happen. However, I am also infuriated by this and so the fire in my gut burns strong and I will continue to stand in Solidarity with women and girls. I will keep marching, keep talking, keep advocating until there is no need for me to do so.

My motivation is this: wouldn’t it be amazing if my granddaughter didn’t know what rape culture was? Or my great-granddaughter only learned about it in her sociology class as part of the history of Feminism? Wouldn’t it be a dream come true to live in a world that is Feminist? “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” (John Lennon) So, this is a call to all the other Dreamers out there; raise your voice, move your feet and let’s smash the Patriarchy and end rape culture!