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Shift the responsibility for ending violence against women

Last week marked Sexual Violence Awareness Week in Newfoundland and Labrador. Throughout the province several communities held Take Back the Night Marches in international protest against sexual violence.

It is a powerful reclamation, bringing women together to walk at night without the fear of violence.

Sadly, beyond the march, for the other 364 nights of the year, women walk with car keys held rigidly as makeshift weapons, or with 911 on speed dial just in case, or, they don’t walk at all.

Statistics Canada reported in 2011 that women are 11 times more likely than men to be victims of sexual offences.

They also reported that men were responsible for 83 per cent of police-reported violence against women and 76 per cent of police-reported violence against men.

Certainly, not all violent crime is reported, and sexual violence tends to be underreported.

What we do know is…whether directed at women or men, the grand majority of violence is perpetrated by men.

Yet, we, as a society, tend to communicate to girls and women ways to protect themselves.

Don’t dress a certain way, or drink too much, or walk alone at night. We, as a society, place the responsibility of ending violence against women on women.

No wonder sexual violence goes underreported, that it is shrouded in silence. Survivors fear being doubted and blamed.

We need to shift the responsibility for ending violence against women. We need to change the conversation so that boys and men learn that it is their behavior, not women’s, that is responsible for men’s violence against women. We need to teach our young people about healthy relationships and consent.

The Newfoundland Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre are to be commended for their efforts in ending violence against women and in raising awareness.

This year they held a screening of the film “The Mask You Live In”, which examines societal expectations around masculinity, and how this shapes boys, men and society as a whole. The screening coincided with the march held in St. John’s. I think it is important we continue to engage boys and men and find positive role models so that together, we can end violence against women. This year’s theme, Building CommUNITY, sums it up pretty nicely.


Cathy Bennett

Opposition MHA responsible

for the Status of Women

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