I am writing, as another December 6th rolls around, to call upon Prince Edward Islanders to pause and remember 14 young women who lost their lives to an angry and violent young man at L’École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 because they were women. In 1991, the Canadian government dedicated the day as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women’s Purple Ribbon Campaign Against Violence reminds the public that women and children among us continue to suffer violence at home, violence that we do not see, in ways that we do not want to imagine.
Make no mistake, violence against women is a huge, messy, and uncomfortable topic wrapped in myth and misconception that can easily divide us along gender lines. Our discomfort leads to using euphemisms such as family or domestic violence, that obscure who is hurt and who does the hurting. So how do we overcome resistance, and move from remembrance to action?
This year the Purple Ribbon Campaign is aimed at building a new alliance with men, through the theme Men, Take a Stand With Us. Dozens of men across the Island have sent in their photos to appear on posters with their commitment to help end violence against women. These posters are displayed online and graced a memorial ceremony at Confederation Centre as a visible sign that violence against women is an issue for men as well as women in Prince Edward Island. The Advisory Council is encouraged by and grateful to the men who came forward to stand with women on eradicating violence against women. The poster campaign holds the potential for creating teachable moments between fathers and their children, between “poster men” and male co-workers, and for supportive partnerships between the women’s transition services and the community organizations to which the men belong.
Here are some everyday actions we know can help:
- Listen to and learn from women’s direct experience of violence. Your mother, sister, daughter, employee is not making it up, and needs support, not blame.
- Teach your children the benefits of healthy and equal relationships through example and discussion.
- Monitor competitive sports culture, and resist it when it perpetuates negative attitudes toward women.
- Be a leader by not tolerating disrespectful and harassing words or behaviours toward women. Sexist language or jokes help to create a climate where forms of violence or abuse are acceptable.
- Become knowledgeable about patterns of male violence, and believe that violence can happen to a woman, her children, and even to their pets, under a roof in your neighborhood.
- Be aware and spread awareness. Awareness is a first step. Please pin on a purple ribbon, and take the opportunity to say what it means to you, now and during Family Violence Prevention Week, February 8-14, 2009.
I hasten to say that many men in our province have already been active in addressing violence against women. For example, the Charlottetown Royalty Rotary Club sponsors an annual fund-raising concert on behalf of Transition House Association. In addition, male founders and members of organizations such as the Premier’s Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention, the Transition House board, and other community organizations have stood with women for many years. Male police, clergy, family members, and health-care providers are often called on to be first responders to the violence women experience.
Many men and women in our region will take some time this week to remember Prof. John McKendy from St. Thomas University, a model of non-violence and anti-violence who was murdered by his daughter’s ex-partner while he was sheltering that daughter in his home. His example reminds us what courage it takes to stand up to violence, and that there can be danger for men who stand with women against violence. On December 6 each year, we stand together, women and men, remembering together and acting together to eliminate the danger and end violence against women.
PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women