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Uniting Voices: A Collective Stand Against Gender-Based Violence

Today, on the International Day for Human Rights, we see the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence come to an end. These 16 days focused on the importance of investing and policymaking in different prevention strategies to stop violence systematically. These systematic changes are quickened when society has values and mindsets that promote these changes.

The 16 days are over, now what?

As we look forward to the next commemoration, we are reminded that all activism against gender violence continues throughout the year. We are reminded that gender violence affects the whole community as it ripples through families, communities, and societies, harming individuals of all genders in various ways. Not only should those directly involved take action, but the larger community should also be held responsible for its actions/ non-action.

I don’t know where to begin.

Act by having conversations. These conversations provide the opportunity to uncover the secrecy, myths, and sometimes taboo nature of this topic. Conversations provide an opportunity to label and perceive gender violence correctly, gradually stopping a culture which normalizes and minimizes violence against girls and women. They create safe spaces to discuss gender-based violence and may eventually empower others in identifying or reporting gender violence. Every conversation matters.

Myths and realities: conversation pieces.

We have compiled eight myths associated with Gender Violence. We hope these can be used as tools and conversation starters during your discussions with family, friends, and colleagues.

  1. Myth: “Gender-based violence is a private and family matter.”
  2. Reality: Gender-based violence happens everywhere, and we have a collective responsibility to address it. It is a human rights violation and a serious crime.

  1. Myth: “Gender-based violence doesn’t happen in Canada.”
  2. Reality: There are approximately 460,000 incidents of sexual assault each year in Canada.

  1. Myth: “Immigrants are bringing gender-based violence and sexism to Canada.”
  2. Reality: Gender-based violence is not a recent immigrant problem – it has long been an issue in Canada.

  1. Myth: “Violence is experienced during a short phase of one’s life, usually youth.”
  2. Reality: Violence negatively affects women’s physical and mental health and well-being at all stages of their life and impacts their professional development and economic empowerment.

  1. Myth: “Violence only affects certain groups of women.”
  2. Reality: Violence crosses all boundaries and can affect women from all social, economic, cultural and family backgrounds. It is not an economic-based issue.

  1. Myth: “Gender-based violence is not that serious; it is not worth the awkward, uncomfortable discussions.”
  2. Reality: Different forms of Gender-based Violence exist everywhere, but we don’t always take them as seriously as we should. We should stop dismissing or minimizing these horrible acts. Conversations ultimately shift behaviours.

  1. Myth:” Survivors are unable to break the vicious cycle of violence”
  2. Reality: While violence brings serious consequences, many survivors can recover and take a stand to help other women.

  1. Myth: “Sexual violence is more likely to be committed by a stranger.”
  2. Reality: Two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor, according to some studies. Only 2% of abusers are complete strangers.

Someone I know is experiencing Gender-based violence, what should I do?

We will also share  eight ways in which you can help someone experiencing Gender-based violence.

  1. Report photos and messages that exploit women and girls.
  2. Be aware of available resources for girls and women.
  3. Listen to them. Don’t interrupt.
  4. Believe them. It takes courage to talk about Gender-based violence.
  5. Let them know it was not their fault.
  6. Ask how you can help. Don’t assume what those needs are — ask instead.
  7. Respect their decisions regarding responses.
  8. Provide resources when they’re ready.

We hope that these tools help empower you to have these conversations. Remember that gender-based violence affects the whole community. We can change this silent culture, which normalizes and minimizes violence against girls, women, and two-spirited. Together, our conversations will move the society closer to change.

Bobbie Mang’eli
Project Manager and Environmental Planner at Narratives Inc.