On December 6th 1989, Marc Lepine, armed with a rifle and a hunting knife shot 28 people before killing himself. He targeted women in particular and shot 9 women in one class after separating them from the males, lining them up and then opening fire. He claimed he was “fighting feminism”. He walked through the university, specifically targeting women to shoot. He was shooting them simply because they were female. He killed 14 women, injured 10 more and injured 4 men. December 6th is now known as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
As we approach our memorial event this year, it’s hard to figure out what to write about. Violence against women, just for being born a female is still evident across the globe. There are so many elements to it. Every day I see, read and / or post something related to violence against women. Stories and news paper articles and social media notices and events. Not only do I get to see what’s happening in my own country, now (thanks to the internet) I can see in real-time what’s happening in other countries as well. It’s somewhat overwhelming some days.
For instance, did you know that rape is more common than smoking in the US?
Or that you can buy a pickup truck decal that is a photo of a woman tied up with rope lying down in the back of the pickup – you know, as a “joke”.
Or that every 5 days a woman is killed in Canada in a domestic homicide.
And while I recognize how far we’ve come, it sure seems like we still have a long way to go.
There has been a lot of analyzing of Marc Lepine’s life and motivations prior to the assault. His history of physical abuse and whatever violence he may have grown up with appears likely to have impacted his decisions and his mental health. Let’s face it, when you beat kids, they grow up with problems. It’s not an effective disciplinary technique. If it was, it would have worked many years ago instead of the ever-growing list of messed up kids who seem to keep falling through the cracks.
Research is now telling us that violence in the family home is so detrimental to kids (they don’t have to be hit, they just have to live there) that it can cause the brain to wire itself differently and is the leading cause of trauma for kids.
It’s also telling us that many domestic violence abusers and victims establish their relationship patterns in their adolescent years and will often enter dating violent relationships which seem to lead to domestic violent relationships as they become adults.
In society’s quest to help deal with the issues around domestic and sexual violence, the push has been on trying to change attitudes and awareness with adults. This has been and continues to be very necessary. When you have adults who may have interfered with criminal investigations or covered up for the sexually violent actions of others and become involved in or led the victim blaming responses that happen after charges are laid – well, this is “the long way to go still” part of the equation.
Realistically though, adults historically do a very bad job of changing attitudes and behaviour. That typically has to start with kids and there needs to be a cultural change in how that generation views the issue in order to see long-term, sustainable changes in attitudes and behaviours for a community or nation.
When you compare the statistics of intimate partner violence between adults and youth, statistics show that teens are at a much higher risk of intimate partner abuse. In fact, girls aged 16 – 24 are at the highest risk for intimate partner abuse of everyone.
Coincidentally, 83% of teenagers who are taught about healthy relationships feel that they can tell the difference between a healthy relationship and a potentially unsafe one afterwards.
I hope someday, in our quest to find ways to more effectively eliminate violence against women, we take that information and do a better job focusing on teaching our children and protecting them from harm. It really has to start somewhere.