Talking About Violence- Out Loud

by Janet Madsen  |  @janet_madsen

So most of you will know about the allegations of violence made against media personality Jian Ghomeshi. There have been questions and criticism as to why most of the women making claims against Ghomeshi haven’t gone public or to the police (three have). The general outcry runs this way-  Volume_wintersixfour_morguefile

Why would women not want to go to police?

Our justice system works!

Women will be supported if they come forward!

Many people responding to this type of comment have corrected these claims, even as victim-blaming comments like “Why did she go back to him?” roll out alongside.

Denise Balkissoon wrote a fantastic piece published in the Globe and Mail yesterday. She explores the idea there’s a shift in public perception regarding violence against women because of the Ghomeshi scandal. Well, the supposed shift in perception. She argues that this won’t be the change we’ve been hoping for, and she’s got some great points. She said, “I am writing… because of those asking why shamed CBC host Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged victims didn’t call the police. It’s because it’s essentially useless, and thoroughly disappointing.” She recounts her own experience of reporting assault and being re-victimized by the justice system- twice.

This morning on The Current, Anna Maria Tremonti asked whether this point in time is a “watershed moment”, echoing the title of Denise Balkissoon’s piece. Is society more aware of and more outraged by gender-based violence? Will the Ghomeshi case propel change forward? Balkissoon pointed out that there are many more horrific stories of violence against women than the ones about Ghomeshi. She said “The idea that one scandalous news story can change everything- I’m pretty skeptical of that.” The two other guests agreed, but also said that they think what’s changing is that women who’ve been assaulted or victimized are finding their voices in new ways, understanding and defining their experiences.

Writer Antonia Zerbisias has been a great force behind this, launching #beenrapedneverreported on Twitter. It unleashed a wave of response.
Women are coming forward anonymously and openly about their experiences, from the certain to the creepy ones they blame themselves for, because that’s what we’ve been taught to do.

Perhaps, perhaps, we are making progress- some. Gender-based violence is as old as time, but maybe we can make change in time. Instead of women being questioned how they made violence/ assault/ abuse happen to them, we will start to see the shift to demanding of those who instigate these actions. Why did you do that to her? instead of What did you do to make him do that?

Let’s hope.



Photo: wintersixfour, MorgueFile