One day until Black Friday sales!
Less than four weeks until the new Star Wars movie!
One month until Christmas!
Sixteen days to raise awareness about violence against women!
Go ahead and pick the one that’s most important to you. Before you do, think of these statistics:
- One in three boys and men are victims of physical and sexual abuse, often at the hands of their partners.
- 4.5 million boys and men around the world are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
- 700 million men were married as children, 250 million of whom before the age of 15.
- 1 in 2 murdered men worldwide in 2012 were killed by their partners or family members.
You’re probably thinking, these statistics simply cannot be true. Nonsense! And you’d be right. There’s no way there are that many boys and men who are victims of violence at the hands of their partners. No way so many boys and men can be victims of sexual exploitation or married as children. These numbers are ridiculous; they make no sense.
The statistics are indeed ridiculous, but they are not fabricated: switch “boys” and “men” with “girls” and “women” in each of those statistics and you get the world’s current reality. I switched the sexes from these true sobering facts.
Violence against women and girls – from physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, and spiritual – extends far too profoundly into the fabric of every culture. The causes are numerous, but at the heart of much of the violence is a deep inequality between men and women. As stated by the Canadian Women’s Foundation: “In our society, gender inequality is visible in many areas, including politics, religion, media, cultural norms, and the workplace. Both men and women receive many messages—both blatant and covert—that men are more important than women. This fundamental inequality creates a rationale for humiliation, intimidation, control, abuse, and even murder.”
In Canada, there are groups that are especially vulnerable: 2/3 of women who are victims of sexual assault are under the age of 24; Aboriginal women are eight times more likely to be killed by their partner than non-Aboriginal women; and 60% of women with disabilities are victims of violence. While these groups account for a disproportionate number for victims, it falls on everybody – men, women, boys, and girls – to understand the causes of violence against women, to empower girls and women to understand and fully enjoy their rights, to educate boys, men, women and girls on harmful behaviours, attitudes and practices that contribute to violence against women, and of course for everyone to talk about it. Violence against women cannot remain taboo or a private matter. It shouldn’t be talked about jokingly; it shouldn’t be perpetuated from one generation to the next.
I’ve been lucky; I was raised by my mother, a woman who defiantly challenged instances when she was discriminated against. She’d come back from a garage after getting her car serviced and tell me: “They were going to take advantage of me and charge me for things I didn’t need because I’m a woman, but Buster Boy, I told them they’d better not.” She would be verbally abused, but she stood her ground. If she were being treated like shit, she’d throw it back in the guy’s face. She showed me that you had to stand up for what’s right (and that you were pretty stupid if you decided to take advantage of my mother). Just as importantly, her courage in facing discrimination exposed me to its existence in our society. Getting ripped off by a mechanic is not nearly the same as severe forms of violence against women like physical or sexual abuse. However it speaks to a persistent inequality that many men perpetuate and continue to assume is “normal.” But it’s not normal. These forms of discrimination and violence have to be named, have to be talked about, and need to end.
November 25 marks the start of a global campaign to end violence against women. The campaign is referenced on social media through hashtags such as #16days or #orangetheworld. It won’t happen in the next 16 days, but everyone should take the time – between shopping for that big screen TV at a Black Friday sale, purchasing tickets for the latest Star Wars movie, or buying a couple of gifts on your Xmas list – to learn more about violence against women and ways to bring those real statistics down to zero.
Learn more: UN Women kicks of its 16 days of activism to end violence against women from November 25 until December 10. Ideas on what to do, including ways to show support through social media, can be found here.