Do you remember where you were on Dec. 6, 1989, when the 14 young women at the l’École Polytechnique in Montreal were killed by a man professing to be antifeminist?
I do. I was teaching a Grade 9 science class. I stopped the class to discuss it when a student asked, “What does this have to do with science?” I said, “This affects us all!”
And 28 years later, we remember and must continue to work for change.
Violence against women and girls hurts all of us. Not only does it hurt the women in our lives, but it affects boys and men. The impact of violence on the mental health of everyone involved is devastating, and the economic and social ripple effects are far reaching.
Video games’ and the media’s negative portrayal of women and girls as sexual objects incites violence, degradation and rape. This depiction not only harms the way girls and young women see themselves but can also influence how boys and young men view their relationships with women and girls.
Statistics Canada reports that spousal violence has consistently been one of the most common forms of violence against women in Canada. In 2011, there were 59 female spousal homicide victims in Canada compared to seven male victims.
CTF member organizations are reporting an increasing number of threats, intimidation and violence by students targeting their peers and teachers.
Since the majority of teachers in Canada are women, they stand a much higher risk of being affected by violence at school or at home.
One can only imagine the impact on children and students who witness these acts. Almost six in 10 women with children who were assaulted by spouses said their children heard or saw the violent episode.
While not all mental health challenges can be linked to violence, people who witness violence or who are targeted by violence are more likely to suffer from mental health challenges later in life. The Canadian Women’s Foundation indicates that while both men and women experience violence, statistics show that women do experience higher incidents. The foundation also states that half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. These are our mothers, our sisters and our daughters.
But women and girls shouldn’t have to address this issue alone. Men have roles and responsibilities when dealing with the issue of violence against women. We are all measured by our actions.
Here is my pledge.
As a teacher
I will continue to talk with students about the media they consume and will promote the development of their critical thinking skills through digital and media literacy.
I will speak up about violence and bullying in schools.
As an educational leader
I will speak out on violence against women and girls and lobby for measures and actions to counter violence.
As a man
I will continue to support the White Ribbon pledge, www.whiteribbon.ca/pledge.
I will continue to speak up about violence against women and girls in society.
As a father
I will be a positive role model for my children.
I will continue to teach them how to resolve conflict without violence.
I will continue to teach them how to be respectful and responsible adults.
My hope is that both of them grow up with equity and equality, as should be their right in our society. ❚
Facts about violence against women (#VAW)
According to Statistics Canada
- girls are 1.5 times more likely than boys to experience violence at home,
- about 26% of all women who are murdered by their spouses had left the relationship,
- Indigenous women are killed at six times the rate of non-
lndigenous women and
- women are almost four times more likely than men to be victims of spousal violence.
There were 1,181 cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada between 1980 and 2012, according to the RCMP. However, according to the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Status of Women Canada the number is much higher, closer to 4,000.
In addition to sexism, there are many other forms of social inequality that compound abuse and violence, including racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, ableism and religious persecution.
Mark Ramsankar is the past-president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
This opinion column represents the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the position of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.