International Women’s Day takes place on March 8 every year to celebrate women’s rights and inspire people to act in the ongoing fight for gender equality. The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. It highlights the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions to create a more inclusive and gender-equal world. One might assume that in first-world countries like Canada, we have already met that challenge, but that is not the case. We still have work to do.
I am a breast cancer survivor, as well as a woman who had to live in hiding for two years after leaving an abusive relationship. When I had breast cancer, I was offered lots of support – phone calls, emails, cards, flowers, public and private prayers, baking, and offers of assistance for pretty much anything we needed help with. When I left my home and abusive partner, my Priest arranged for me to stay temporarily with a congregation member in the suite of her garage; it turned out that I lived there for two years. Bless them both for their help, but most women are not so lucky.
I then navigated my way through the legal process, financial worries, counselling, fear for my life and well-being (my former partner was threatening and stalking me), and worry that I would lose my job (which actually did happen as I was trying to juggle school, the legal process and a demanding job all at the same time). I was also agonizing over what to tell my family and friends, feeling shame about what I was going through, grieving many losses, and trying to rebuild my life with very little support – certainly much less than when I had breast cancer.
Men’s use of violence against women is characterized by a unilateral pattern of controlling, threatening, oppressive, coercive and sometimes assaultive tactics intended to create fear and compliance, interspersed with positive-looking behaviours. Abusive men will employ a seemingly infinite number of strategies to maintain power and control, including physical, sexual, psychological, financial, social, spiritual and cultural abuse.
Acts of violence against women are not isolated incidents, rather part of a belief system that treats some lives as less valuable than others. Although it is challenging for me to share my experience, I choose to do so because every girl and woman deserves to feel safe and supported. It is our basic human right.
Carolyn Rogers, Invermere