Physical and sexual abuse of women is not a game

By Pat Watson Wednesday November 19 2014 in Opinion
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Another high-profile man has been outed for his abusive behaviour involving women. The insistence by a well-known, now former, CBC radio host that his habit of choking women he invites on dates and then punching them in the head is consensual has appalled many. This individual has reportedly hired a top-notch female lawyer to defend his case as he has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against his former employer.


This matter of female abuse is a very emotional issue, therefore after this particular case came to public attention, a wave of female voices rose up to share stories of being the targets of abuse.


At the same time, a two-minute video showing how men sexually harassed a woman walking the streets of New York City went viral. Some hailed the video. And, it was criticized by others because of the way it racialized the males who hassled the woman. The producer of the video is male and he has stated he edited the 10 hours of footage to make his point not about race, but about the daily abuse of women on the streets.


Here are some statistics that would not be news to any woman in this country: In a national survey done in 2009, 460,000 said they had been sexually assaulted; two out of every three people here in Canada know a woman who has been physically or sexually abused; only 22 per cent of domestic abuse occurrences are reported to the police and less than 10 per cent of sexual assaults are reported.


Part of the bind in this war against women is that women often blame themselves for becoming the targets of this abuse. That is because most of this violence comes from persons we know. The Hollywood version, where some stranger stalks a woman walking home alone in the dark, is rarely how these attacks occur. The attackers are usually their dates, boyfriends, husbands, father of their children, doctors, therapists, priests, teachers, their brothers, their fathers, their uncles, co-workers, next-door neighbours.


When men play together, they are often very rough with each other. The sport of hockey should give a sense of how they socialize with each other in physical interactions. Also, the way men speak to each other is not the way women speak to each other. Among men, there can be camaraderie with rough and even abusive language that they simply laugh off. It’s male culture.


Men learn that if they need to have a heart to heart conversation, they would likely have to go to a trusted female friend, or perhaps a female bartender.


When men transfer their male culture behaviour to interactions with women, the effect is a clash of cultures. Most women do not want to be punched in the shoulder as a sign of friendship. A man may be welcome to refer to his male friend as an SOB, but there is hardly a woman who would like her male friend referring to her in whatever the female version of that epithet is as a form of greeting.


So one man’s friendly roughhousing is another woman’s assault. This is by no means an excuse for sexual and physical violence by men perpetuated against women. This is about the failure of society to speak honestly to young men and women about how to relate to each other with understanding and mutual respect.


Despite what all those sexy ads that sell chewing gum, cars and whatever else may suggest, women are not mere physical objects to be preyed upon.


Here’s another point, in case no one has voiced this before: Men, you can’t do to women as you do among men friends and still remain a gentleman.


A note on the statistics of hunger…

In March this year, almost 900,000 people living right here in Canada visited a food bank. That figure is an increase over the same time last year and an increase of 25 per cent since 2008. The struggle to find employment, low wage employment and the high cost of shelter all factor into this growing crisis. The image is that we live in a land of plenty, so how do we explain this fact of Canadian life to the folks back home?


Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose

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