This past year has been full of change. The #MeToo movement has continued gaining momentum, giving courage to many women to come forward, and helping to give voices to those who are unable to speak out loud on these important issues. At Neighbours, Friends and Families, we have continued to focus on educating the general public about domestic abuse while also discussing issues that are becoming more mainstream or need to be at the forefront of issues, especially through our blog.
The winter holiday season creates many expectations for a time of joy. Television commercials, stores, online advertisements, all show images of happy families and friends celebrating together and enjoying the holiday celebrations.
This isn’t the reality for everyone, though. For many people the holidays are filled with sadness, anxiety or pain. This time of year can bring up difficult memories or bring us into contact with people who we would rather not see. It is especially tough for those who have lost a loved one or are going through difficult times. For some, family get-togethers can bring up painful memories or fears. Others might feel very alone and isolated at this time of year, with limited resources and support.
In recent years, survivors and activists have ensured the issues of sexual violence stay in the spotlight, and social media has greatly helped to elevate this cause. Campaigns such as “MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, and #NotOneMore, among others, have helped prevent survivors from being ignored and silences, while gathering support worldwide.
Tis the season...to be generous? While philanthropy and volunteering is always much needed in our society, it seems that the time around the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.) seems to have special meaning for many and also entices a greater influx of donations and volunteering efforts. Women’s shelters are also often thought of this time of year, whether it’s because there is a need for coats, hats and mitts, or because many times, there are children staying at the shelters who celebrate these holidays and, of course, also deserve to feel special.
I have chosen to write about a deeply personal topic – the bullying experiences of Indigenous boys with braids in mainstream schooling settings. I write about this topic as an Indigenous mother of two children a young man, and a boy who have long hair, but have endured the bullying and violence perpetrated by other kids on the playground - forms of violence deeply embedded within white settler masculinist norms based on assumptions of what a ‘real boy’ should look like. As we have learned, being an Indigenous boy with long hair in our day and age has real consequences.
In recent years, the barrage of attacks on female politicians and journalists has intensified in the online world. Coming even from high-profile people and those in power, the abuse is unchecked and seemingly limitless. The distinguishing feature of much of this abuse is that it is directed at women and it overwhelmingly comes from men, including those in high-profile positions of power.
It was 25 years ago that 30,000 men and women from almost 200 countries gathered in China for the Fourth World Conference on Women. The outcome was one of the most comprehensive plans for the empowerment of women with one vital point being recognized: Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace.
Maha El Birani, her sisters, and her mother Sonia had long endured family violence at the hands of Maha’s father, despite eventually seeking outside help and therapy. It all came to an abrupt stop once Maha’s father brutally murdered Sonia in their family home in London, Ontario, Canada. The short documentary, Fatal Silence, directed and produced by Alan Powell, recounts Maha’s poignant story of her family’s suffering and what lessons she hopes others will learn from her family’s plight so no one else has to endure what her family went through.
We’re often taught, through media or even school, that domestic violence is all physical. But that’s often not the case. The lack of physical bruises should never be a sign that all is fine. While abuse can most definitely be physical, it can also be emotional, psychological, mental, or financial. Many times, it also starts off slowly, with the abuser attempting to control his victim in numerous ways.
In Ontario, Neighbours, Friends & Families (NFF) has been a clear voice for public education on addressing domestic violence since 2005. NFF materials are designed to prepare neighbours, friends and family members, as the people who are closest to women who are experiencing abuse, as ‘bystanders’. NFF teaches everyone to recognize warning signs and risk factors, to respond safely and effectively and to know where to refer for help in the community.