murder of Kasandra Perkins.
I could spend days, weeks and even years discussing my outrage about acts of gender violence in my home country of Canada, as well as other countries all over the world, but I would like to talk frankly about an issue that is affecting my community right now.
I live in a small city in South Western Ontario and we are about to embark on our first annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. Over the past few years I have been an active volunteer with my local women’s emergency shelter and when they had discussed launching this event in 2013 I couldn’t have been a stronger advocate.
My first experience with gender violence in my community was in 2002 when a 21 year-old woman was stabbed to death 58 times by her ex-partner in her parking complex. I was a young, naive 15 year-old girl at the time and while I was saddened by this murder, I was also too young to be aware of the misogynistic undertones of the comments that others were making about it. The murderer was a popular young athlete who had put our unassuming little hamlet “on the map” which led many to defend and make excuses for him. Murmurs around town, to this day, harken back to victim blaming and shaming that was characteristic of our culture decades ago. I have heard respected members of the community blame the victim because she was supposedly “unfaithful”, “an addict” or even that “she hit him too, ya know!” It wasn’t until I began my sociology program in University that I discovered how detrimental these attitudes were to the community and the cause.
The second experience occurred only two months ago when a woman was murdered by her estranged partner while her two children hid upstairs. This particular tragedy touched me in a very deep way. It caused me to dive in to my volunteer role with more feverous passion than I had ever felt before. This happened to her, to us, to our community and I wasn’t going to let it be another instance of victim blaming. I decided that in order for me to contribute to ending gender violence I would have to go out in to the community and TALK about it. I would talk to anyone and everyone who would listen and was willing to talk with me. Words are power, naming things is power. I wanted to delve deeper than saying in passing, “what a tragedy about that woman and her children.” It WAS a tragedy. It was devastating. Now let’s talk about why it happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.
It is time that we take hold of community events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® to get people talking and get people engaged. Domestic violence and sexual assault are NOT a private problem, they are a public issue. My organizing and recruiting efforts to date have been well received but I want you to open you ears not your wallets. Put yourself in her shoes and change your attitudes, beliefs and behaviors so that we don’t pass on a sexualized, patriarchal, misogynistic view of women and subsequently domestic violence to our future generations.
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