Our Silence Matters

Years ago, when a man I’d been involved with, stalked me and my then-teenage daughters feared what might happen if he ever caught me walking alone at night, we took a self-protection course together.

“You can’t control what others will do but you can ‘safety harden’ yourself and your perimeter so that you have some control of what you do if the worst happens,” the former police sergeant teaching the course told us.

Safety hardening our perimeter included cutting down bushes around the house where someone might hide. Putting motion detector lights all around the house. Installing an alarm system and meeting with the watch command at our community police station so they would know if one of us called, they needed to respond. Right now.

One day I mentioned to the instructor how ridiculous I felt when I left the house, got into my car and immediately locked the doors. It feels so weak, I told him. Like I’m living in fear.

He told me it was just good practice. You live in the inner city of a large city. There are bad people all around. You need to protect yourself.

At the time, I didn’t question his advice. It was true. The man stalking me had already once jumped out of the bushes and tried to stop me as I took a shortcut to a girlfriend’s house.

I knew he was right. But still, the idea that I had to do the work to stop him from attacking me, grated.

It’s like when we ask/wonder, when a woman is murdered by a partner who had a history of violence, “Why didn’t she leave?”

Given that a reported 19,000 women and children are turned away from shelters every night in Candaa, shouldn’t we be asking, “Where will she go?”

And, “Why does he think it’s his right to beat her?” “Why does he believe he has the right to take her life?” “Why does he think violence against women is acceptable?” “Why do we blame the victim?”

On Tuesday, 8 women were tragically murdered by one man in Atlanta. He has a sex addiction he told police. He thought killing those women would help him.

And while this tragedy also puts a spotlight on anti Asian-racism, it is also a story not told about violence against sex-workers. Sex workers experience violence in the workplace at significantly higher levels than others. One review of systemic violence against sex workers states that often police don’t register these offences because of the circumstances under which the violence occurred and the workers don’t report them because of historical abuse by police. This means, on a global basis, there is little research on the issue, and thus, few demands that something be done to protect sex workers.

On March 3rd of this year, in London, England, a 33-year old woman disappeared while walking home. Her remains were recently discovered in woods 50 kilometres from where she had been walking. A police officer is arrested and charged with murder. A spotlight shines on stranger violence against women. Demonstrations follow. More arrests. Calls for investigations of police use of force. Sarah Everard has become the spark that ignited a public outcry against stranger violence against women. She was young. blond and white.

Hers is a story about violence against women that has rallied the voices of millions of women to stand up and demand “We take back the night”. It is also a story about the untold stories of millions of women worldwide whose stories never inspired a mass outpouring of demands the violence stop. Their stories did not make headlines. They did not fit into the paradigm of what we see as unacceptable violence against women because, most often, their skin was not white or they were engaged in high-risk activities that put them in the line of being targeted by male perpetrators of violence. Like the sex-trade.

Few (I would hope all) would disagree. Gender violence is unacceptable.

Our silence is also unacceptable.

Violence against women and non-binary individuals, no matter race or occupation or the relationship between perpetrator and victim is more than just a story of violence. It is a story about our mores and values. Our humanity.

Focussing on just high-profile cases diminishes the lives of those who historically have never had a voice nor the opportunity, and often right, to defend themselves. To stand up for themselves. To have their stories known.

We are contributing to the belief, some lives matter more than others.

Black lives matter.

Asian lives matter.

Indigenous lives matter.

Every life cut short by violence matters.

Let’s start hearing all the stories that matter so that together, we can create a world where no one fears dying beneath violent hands.

Because, I still wonder, years later, when I asked for police support at my local police station when I feared the man who was stalking me, were they so attentive because there was an inherent yet silent bias at play that none of us saw? Because I presented as an attractive woman with white skin, an impressive title on my business card and no history of interactions with the law, were they predisposed to believe me and come to my aid the night I did call? Because they did come that night. Fast. I wonder how it might have been different if I looked different?

________________________________

14 thoughts on “Our Silence Matters

  1. yes, yes, yes – to all of it. Lately I’m thinking ‘Where do I stand in all this?’ I’m also accepting ‘things’ (no violence) I know I don’t want to, but I can’t change them. So I bite it down, and don’t even speak about it. But there is no doubt in my mind: I shouldn’t…. because if it matters to me and feels wrong, it IS wrong. It’s small and tiny stuff, but we are nowadays SO aware of so many things we never did before that it might take another generation or two before NO WOMAN lets herself get goaded, guided, misled, mistreated, taken for a fool (or what is called here a doormat) or taken for granted.
    If I (read that in bold!) with a good man feel that, HOW is it for untold women with unkind, rude, spineless or egoistic partners? I hate to think of it. It’s depressing and so sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a powerful message, thank you. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops. I have taken the approach that even one person can be positively influenced by a message like this post, then it is worth the effort.
    Today I was trimming some branches on the Norway and blue spruce trees in our yard, a corner lot, with streets on three sides. A neighbour asked why I was opening up the gaps between the trees. My simple response, to ensure there are no “hidey holes” for anyone to take advantage of. Once a security professional, that concept never leaves one.
    Once again’ thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “…got into my car and immediately locked the doors.”

    I’ve always done this, having grown up in the inner city. And I still get criticized (by a male friend) for doing this.

    More voices need to be raised for all to understand.
    Thank you, Louise, for daring to speak.
    Stay safe,
    -Shira

    Like

    • Yes!!! Take a stand for what’s right and do what you can. End of story. ❤

      And in that place… the stories of our life begin with beauty, truth and grace.

      Thank you for sharing your light in this conversation.

      Like

Real conversations begin with your comments. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.