The War on Women and Girls

Today my heart aches. I saw in my Twitter feed that on the weekend two women had been brutally assaulted, raped, and left for dead. One victim is a sixteen-year-old girl in Winnipeg, the other is a thirty-year-old woman in Calgary. The attack on the latter was described by police as extremely violent. Both are in the hospital… and I am beside myself.

Part of what is so upsetting is that these vicious attacks have occurred in the wake of recent major news headlines concerning rampant sexual harassment and violence against women – Gamergate, Ghomeshigate, the recent suspension of two Liberal MPs in Ottawa for sexual harassment, and most disturbingly, the global outrage against the reviled, self-proclaimed “dating coach,” Julien Blanc, who travels around the world to give seminars on how to sexually assault women.

It was the Ghomeshi scandal and the Twitter hash tag, #BeenRapedNeverReported, several weeks ago that sparked an unprecedented and much needed conversation that is still going strong. This morning CBC Radio’s current affairs program, The Current, discussed the culture of fear and abuse that women experience, and how men can get involved in the fight against sexism and misogyny. (Listen to the audio segment – length 22 minutes). Sigh… we have such a long way to go.

So… after these two latest horrific assaults on the weekend I am left feeling speechless and helpless, yet it is my outrage that compels me to scream at my keyboard and formulate meaningful words and thoughts that need to be shouted from rooftops everywhere. Is there going to be no end to this???

Ultimately I feel, as every woman must, that those attacks—those victims—are in some way connected to me personally. Why? Because never before has the war on women been so outrageously obvious. Never before has the war on women and girls everywhere been so desperately in need of being formally addressed.

In my last post I touched on the role of government in ignoring the problem:

The Canadian government’s complicity in the escalation of the current crisis is in my opinion reprehensible. By ignoring repeated calls for a public inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is guilty of turning a blind eye to rape culture. Through arrogance, male entitlement, inaction, and cold-heartedness, his style of leadership inadvertently sends a message loud and clear to abusers, rapists, murderers, and misogynists everywhere that human rights violations against WOMEN are tolerated in this country. Women are open season, have your way with them. Harper’s stance is unacceptable.

Tragically, someone did have his way with a sixteen-year-old girl and left her to die by the Assiniboin River. Tragically, someone did have his way with a thirty-year-old woman and left her to die in the bushes by a C-Train platform. It’s a miracle that either survived. Now their lives have been changed forever, and whether they truly “survive” remains to be seen.

With regard to Prime Minister Harper and his denial that there is a crisis, he has washed his hands of it stating that it is a matter for the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, as if the statistics regarding sexual assault were not alarming enough, the monumental and nationwide outpouring of outrage, grief, tears, disclosures, debates, discussions, and conversations these past weeks should be a glaring sign that it’s time—time for effective leadership strategies, time for criminal law revisions, time for compassionate treatment of sexual assault victims, time for curriculum revisions in education, and the list goes on.

For the leader of a nation to stand by and do nothing is to allow the war on women and girls to continue, and most tragically, to continue blaming the victims. How many more victims will it take? The ugly truth is, this isn’t even war—it’s all out genocide.

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To the two victims in Winnipeg and Calgary (and to all the other unreported victims who have been violated these past few days) we stand with you and wish you strength and healing through this difficult time.