On Dec. 6, 1989 a young man walked in to a college in Montreal and shot 28 people in a span of 20 minutes before turning the gun on himself.
Editorial Cartoon for Dec. 3.
When he was finished, 14 women, most of them engineering students, were dead. Marc Lepine was the lone shooter. He had a specific hatred for women he considered feminists. Although Lepine obviously does not represent the general attitude of men toward women, Dec. 6 is a day Canadians have marked as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Like most crime in Canada, violence against women is lowering but it is still a major issue. Every year there are over 40,000 arrests from domestic violence but many crimes are not reported.
Every day there are over 3,000 women and children staying in a shelter. They are the lucky ones, the ones not turned away by overcrowding.
In a 2009 national survey over 460,000 sexual assaults against women were reported. It is thought however that only 10 per cent of sexual assault is reported to police. Women are often afraid of not being believed or afraid of being blamed for the assault.
Although violence can happen to anyone of any age, gender, or orientation the risk of being assaulted by a spouse or someone you know is disproportionately high for women.
Forty-nine per cent of female murder victims were murdered by their former or current partner. In contrast only 7 per cent of male murder victims were killed by their current or former partners.
Aboriginal women are at a particularly high risk for violence. There are nearly 600 cases of disappearances or unsolved murders of aboriginal women in Canada, which has prompted the UN to ask the government for an inquiry. Thus far, an inquiry has not been opened.
It is sometimes hard to believe in a First World country that the statistics are so high. That is why it is important to remember, to read, and to teach children early about how to treat one another.
In order to lower these numbers, the acts need to be stigmatized, similar to how use of certain words or actions (such as drinking and driving) have been stigmatized and deemed socially unacceptable. The more education around the subject, the easier that will be.
Violence between both sexes has most likely existed since we ourselves have existed. It is only in the last century things have really started to change for the status of women in Canada. The feminist movement is defined in waves, the first starting as the suffrage movement, the second in the 1960s and the third in the 1990s.
The second wave campaigned for the legal and social equality for women and the third essentially addresses what are thought to be the failings of the second wave. Issues that are often addressed in modern feminism include rape, violence, and reproductive rights.
Push back against these movements is common. Feminism is often considered a dirty word because some more extreme feminists sometimes pick on men. Feminism generally fights for the equality of women and to end gender based violence and abuse. There is nothing dirty about that. Many men are self-proclaimed feminists.
On Dec. 6, there will be memorials, there will be vigils, women’s shelters may offer ribbons (white or purple) in Remembrance. Take a ribbon, maybe get an extra for a friend or a child, and explain why you’re wearing it and why it is important to remember. We can work together to support the equality of all.