Editorial: Shedding light on violence against women

Gender-based violence can be physical, verbal, and psychological — let’s keep our guards up, we still got a long way to go

(Kristen Frier)

Violence against women and girls continues to be a worldwide issue. Let’s educate ourselves and become watchdogs for our family and friends by breaking the chain of gender-based violence.

Nov. 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Eight in 10 victims of intimate partner violence are women, and COVID-19 is making it worse. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a “20-30% increase in gender-based violence and domestic violence in parts of Canada,” says a report by Amnesty International.

But gender-based violence isn’t only physical. It can be emotional, physiological, and verbal.

I remember the very first time I was “cat called.” I was 14 years old and walking towards the Surrey Public Library. As I was crossing the street, a man yelled out a slur. I wasn’t prepared, but I knew this was something that had to happen to me being a woman at some point.

I turned around and looked at him. He was driving a blue and white pickup truck. He smiled with his big yellow teeth as he rested his arm on the window frame. Then, the light turned green, and he drove off.

The saddest part is the fact that I still remember that moment. However, I bet that to him, that memory is long gone. It probably was another forgettable day in his life.

According to a Canadian gender-based violence and unwanted sexual behaviour survey, “The most common types of unwanted sexual behaviour experienced by women in public were unwanted sexual attention (25%), unwanted physical contact (17%), and unwanted comments about their sex or gender (12%).”

Similarly, one in five women experienced online harassment, the survey found.

A Canadian report that measured violence against women indicates that men were responsible for the majority of violence with 83 per cent.

The report finds that women are more likely than “men to be the victims of specific forms of violence, such as intimate partner violence, severe forms of spousal violence, sexual violence, and stalking.”

A survey that looked into “the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous peoples” found that 63 per cent of surveyed Indigenous women in Canada were more worried about domestic violence than COVID-19.

Not to mention, a Canadian homicide report from 2018 found that “for females, 14% of Indigenous victims were initially reported as missing compared to 12% of non-Indigenous victims.”

To become aware of these issues, we need to understand that gender-based violence is happening in our country and community. We also need to educate ourselves and call out individuals who demonstrate harassment or violence against women.

It doesn’t matter if the person isn’t your immediate family member, sister, or girlfriend. If we witness someone doing anything wrong, we need to call them out. If we don’t, how else is the violence going to stop?

The National Film Board of Canada has a web page titled “Shedding Light on The Scourge of Gender-Based Violence.” The page has 11 free films that shed light on the issue of gender-based violence and women’s violence.

These films include: The Apology, A Better Man, Because We Are Girls, After the Montreal Massacre, Status Quo? The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada, Finding Dawn, this river, Sisters in the Struggle, A Love That Kills, and Into the Light. 

I’ve watched Because We Are Girls, and the one hour and 25-minute film gave me a closer look into violence against women in my community in Surrey.

Three sisters of South Asian descent stood up to their family and culture to reveal that they had been sexually abused when they were young.

The film showcased how the sisters encouraged their daughters to stand up to whatever adversity they would face. The film then ends off with the entire family dancing as a metaphor for support.

Films like these help us understand what women who are sexually abused go through and ways in which we can support them.

So, let’s educate ourselves to shed light on violence against women.