So far this year Calgary Police Service (CPS) has responded to nearly 3,400 domestic violence incidents. This figure represents a 46 per cent increase compared to the five-year average. In Alberta, we, unfortunately, have one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Canada. We know that women represent 80 per cent of domestic violence victims. This Week without Violence, we wish we could provide a happy news story, but as our sisters in Vancouver noted in their blog post this week “we are entering this year’s Week without Violence with anguish and disbelief.”
2017 seemed to be the year of the reckoning, major social movements erupted from simple hashtags and men with long histories of perpetrating violence or abuse against women were held accountable for their actions. But this accountability stood in the face of misogynistic undertones seen in every corner of our media landscape, most notably in Calgary through an opinion-editorial comparing #MeToo to a witchhunt. These types of responses are simply a representation that our culture has legitimized and normalized violence against women through social norms, gender roles, social and political institutions.
Violence against women is most often perpetrated by men and the use of violence is often based on men’s own experiences with violence and interpretations of masculinity and manhood that create barriers for men accessing support services. We live and operate in a culture that encourages men to engage in toxic masculinity – defined as specific “standards of behaviour are encouraged and enforced despite being damaging” like “dominance, violence, unchecked sexual aggression, self-reliance to the point of absurdity and the devaluation of anything seen as being ‘feminine’”. Our culture devalues femininity and that creates a challenging environment for women to move forward and exist in a safe and equitable community.
The truth of the matter is, ending violence against girls and women is everyone’s issue. We all need to support women escaping abuse, we all need to advocate for a community where women are safe and valued. Each of us has a role in shaping and changing our culture. We need every woman’s support just as we need every man’s support. We cannot move forward when half of us are held back.
We want more than a Week without Violence, we want a generation without violence. We want children to know a world where they are safe, respected and appreciated equally for their unique contributions.
Make a difference, raise your voice, support a woman or girl in your life or donate to an organization, like YW that’s been actively trying to change the landscape for more than a century.