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Why Do Women Stay? (Reblog)

If you have not been in an abusive relationship, you might wonder, “Why do women stay with abusive men?” Ten years ago abuse against women was not even on my radar. It was not something discussed or ever mentioned in my social circles. Now, I know not only does it exist, but it is a far greater problem than many people recognize.

The recent focus on women coming forward after being sexually harassed, especially in the workplace is so very important and long overdue.  Awareness of human trafficking is leading to an understanding that mistreatment of women can be more evil than many of us ever imagined. Of course these issues need addressing.  My concern is for some reason relationship abuse and domestic violence have been placed on the back burner.  I don’t understand this. Has society slumped back into thinking that women abused by their partners chose their situation and if they don’t like it they can leave?

I have heard, “Why didn’t you leave before?” and “He’s changed, so why won’t you go back?” and “Why can’t you forgive him?” Before I recognized that I was a victim of abuse, I would have asked the same questions. If you have not walked in our shoes; then you won’t really understand the effect of constantly being with a negative, critical and controlling person. The short answer:  A woman might not even realize that her partner is abusive, particularly if the abuse is mental and emotional rather than physical.

Everyone’s personality is a combination of positive and less favourable characteristics. When we fall in love we tend to see only the positive behaviours. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying:  Love is blind. When we first meet people and enter into a dating situation, most of us put our best foot forward to try to make a good impression. So, during the first days, weeks and even months of a new relationship, we’re actually seeing the façade the other person wants us to see. (It sounds very contrived, but in fact many of us are not even aware we are doing this.) By the time some negative characteristics surface, often we’re already ‘sold’ on the person. We are, therefore, no longer objective. We consider the pros and cons. If we’ve already vested a lot in the relationship and decide the pros outweigh the cons; we continue the relationship. From that point on it’s human nature to see mostly the positive characteristics. Why? Because we’ve made the decision and we like to be right; we’re going to consciously, or unconsciously, seek and ‘collect evidence’ to prove ourselves right. In other words, once we make a decision, our brains look for patterns – ones that support that decision.

In some cases, abuse sneaks in and we don’t really acknowledge or even notice it at first. Then, at the first signs we make excuses. “Oh, he’s having a bad day” or “He’s under a lot of stress” or “He’s had too much to drink”. In my case, it was “He’s mentally ill, so it’s not his fault”. We convince ourselves it’s a minor issue compared to all of the wonderful qualities of the man we chose (remember, we want to prove ourselves right).

We also put bad behaviour into the category of ‘give and take’ in a relationship. We tend to see ourselves as putting up with the bad things on a scale of ‘pros and cons’. We think if the pros outweigh the cons, then the balance is good.

Last, but not least, we think we can ‘fix’ it. That’s what I thought. I believed that if I continued to accompany my ex-husband to his psychiatrist, if I made sure his environment was stress-free, if I made sure he had lots of exposure to his family, if I paid attention to him and fed into his ego; then surely he would get better. None of that worked. 

The answer, in my case (and I suspect I’m not alone in this), is that these pernicious behaviours crept into our relationship slowly – slowly because I was vested in my husband’s positive characteristics. He had many good qualities. He was outgoing, charismatic, intelligent, the life of the party, and was a wonderful family man. I loved his children and was so deeply entangled into the family, by the time I started to notice the negative characteristics in his personality I had decided overall the positive parts of his personality and the circumstances outweighed the negative. His negative characteristics were noticed and forgiven by the rest of his family. Sometimes, they even joked about them. When he didn’t display the negatives ones for a while, I believed he was changing or returning to the man I had loved. I was wrong. By the time the negative behaviours were more prevalent, 15 years into our relationship, I felt trapped.

The biggest regret I have is that for years I modelled ineffective weak behaviour to my granddaughters. I wanted them to look at me as a role model of a strong, independent woman. Instead, as children, they saw Nana succumb to their grandfather’s negative critical behaviour.  At least as teenagers, and now young adults, they have witnessed their grandmother draw the line, leave the abusive relationship and fight for what is right.

If you are an abused woman, please reach out and ask for help. At best, leave your abuser. At minimum put a safety plan in place. Stay safe.

Child Brides at Home – Shameful

As you might know, there’s very little good television between Christmas and New Year’s.  Those of us who spend quiet holidays are left to surf the channels or stream.  This year I had not seen A&E’s new series The Untold Story.  If I had noticed it through the year, I would have likely assumed it was yet another detailed reality murder show and skipped over it.  On Thursday my partner and I happened upon the show’s ‘I Was A Child Bride’ episode first aired on April 25, 2019.  The host, Elizabeth Vargas, interviewed several now grown American women tell unbelievable stories of how they were forced into rape, childbirth and marriage at young ages.  We’re not talking 17 or 18.  We’re talking 13, 14 even 9 years old!

We were spellbound for a full two hours while these brave women recounted the appalling steps their families took to dispose of them into ‘Catch 22’ situations where they were too young to know what was happening or do anything about it.  And, when they did understand, they were all too young (under 18) to go to a women’s shelter, acquire a lawyer, or get a divorce.  From 2000 through 2015, there were over 200,000 child marriages in the United States – most under aged were females married to an adult male.

Currently in the U.S., only two States have passed laws preventing under age marriages:  New Jersey and Delaware.  Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Vermont, Connecticut and Maryland have put forward bills that failed.  Some States have done nothing, other States have legislation pending.  The worst, in my opinion, is California that recently passed a law to allow children of any age to marry with some ‘safeguards’ that are basically not enforceable.  Wow!

Why have these efforts failed?  It seems that the ‘old boys club’ in politics thinks that allowing young pregnant females to marry helps stop unwanted births to single girls.  Yet statistics have indicated that these young girls have increased chances of experiencing violence, a 70% chance of eventual divorce, and an 80% chance of dropping out of school.  Basically, the laws allow adult men to get away with statutory rape.

Vargas also interviewed in depth Fraidy Reiss, Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last – an organization working to prevent and free these poor young girls from their horrible situations.  They are systematically going through each State to change the laws.  If you want to help, visit unchainedatlast.org to see what they’re doing and what you can do.  There are even job postings on the site.

Canada’s Civil Marriage Act sets marriage age at 16, plus our Criminal Code states that anyone involved in or having knowledge of under age marriage is guilty of an indictable offence.  There have been 3,382 under age marriages in Canada since 2000.  Heck, my own grandmother was married at 16.  That’s not good enough!  In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is working towards ending child marriage internationally.  What hypocrisy!  Of course, it’s an issue world wide.  Some countries have no laws.  Shamefully, Iran allows marriage at age 9.

Please write to your Ministers of Parliament to change the laws in Canada.  Let Trudeau know that we are not in favour of our young girls being trapped.  They deserve freedom to grow up and make their own decisions.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. As I sit here, with the turkey just put in the oven, my thoughts are with those who are less fortunate than me. Although I am with my loved one, have a roof over my head, and basically no worries; I think of those in service in the military, first responders, the fire fighters, doctors, nurses, police who are working to keep us free, safe and healthy. I appreciate your sacrifices.

Thank you for your service. May you be safe.

Peace.

Secularism in Canada

Last week I attended a Council Meeting at City Hall.  The older, smaller indoor pool I frequent was on the chopping block and I wanted to represent my fellow swimmers’ opinion that this relic was worth saving.  As I sat through other agenda items waiting to see if I would have the opportunity to speak, half paying attention and half thinking to myself that it had been ages since I’d been at a council meeting of any city or personally spoken publicly; I noticed that the mayor was being addressed as “Your Worship”.  Say what?  You’ve got to be kidding me!  There’s no way on earth I’m addressing him as “Your Worship”!  This got me thinking about the separation of state and religion.

For a bit of history, although still part of the British Commonwealth, in 1982 Canada adopted its own constitution and became an independent country.  The Canadian Charter of Rights outlines freedom of religion and freedom of belief.  There is no official religion in Canada.  We do, however, have some ties to Great Britain.  Even though the Queen is ceremoniously “Head of State” and “Defender of the Faith”, she doesn’t really have any power in Canada.  However, most of our courts and laws (except for Quebec) can be traced to Great Britain, and we have held some of the decorum in practice.

Basically, Canada is secular.  I say ‘basically’ because depending on where you look for definition and to which province you refer, the definition might be different.  I believe that government and religion should be separate.  Unfortunately what I’ve seen in the past couple of years is scary.  On one extreme, in the States, we have a President who until very recently was openly supported by Evangelists.  On the other extreme, in the Canadian Province of Quebec, we have Bill 21, which by aiming for total separation of state and religion bans any government worker from wearing any religious symbol.  This includes any public employee: police, wildlife officers, judges, court employees, teachers and school workers, social workers, etc.  The intent is that no one served by a government employee should feel they are being treated with bias.  The Bill affects Muslims who wear hijab, niqab and burka, Sikhs who wear turbans, Arabs who wear keffiyeh, and Jews who wear kippah.  In keeping, the Province of Quebec has removed many crucifixes from political buildings.  Furthermore, the Bill states that no one receiving public services (speaking with their social worker, attending school, riding a public bus) may have their face covered.  This targets the wearing of the niqab.  This is where the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and much of the pubic take issue, citing it targets minorities and is sexist.

Where is the balance?  In our ‘inclusive society’ can we not find a secular state in which government and religion are detached without excluding those who wear religious garb?  Iain Benson, author of Living Together With Disagreement: Pluralism, the Secular, and the Fair Treatment of Beliefs in Canada Today, defines inclusive secularism as: “The state must not be run or directed by a particular religion but must act so as to include the widest involvement of different faith groups, including non-religious.”

Wouldn’t that translate to having obvious representation of every faith or belief group?  I’m not sure how that might pan out for, say, atheists or humanists.  Wouldn’t it be worth the effort though?

I’ve veered away from my original thought.  Personally, I don’t care if the mayor of my city is Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, or whatever.  I don’t care about the colour of his or her skin.  I don’t care if he or she was born in Canada.  I do care about his or her political beliefs and the actions he or she takes to improve my city.  Regardless, I won’t be calling him or her “Your Worship”.

16 Days of Activism: Montreal Massacre

It was December 6, 1989.  It was the first time I felt the wrath of antifeminism when I learned of what later became known as the Montreal Massacre.  A very sick man, whose name I will not glorify, entered École Polytechnique with mass murder as his intent.  The school, associated with Université de Montréal, ranks first in Canada for its scope in engineering research.  This monster walked into a classroom, told the men to leave and brutally gunned down the female students.  Fourteen women died that night: 12 engineering students, one nursing student and one employee.  The murderer made it clear he wanted to kill women, shouting “I hate feminists” as he walked through the school looking for his next victims.  A suicide note found in his pocket after he turned the gun on himself revealed that he had intentions of killing even more women. After witnessing the horrifying event, an additional two students later committed suicide.  May they all rest in peace.

In Canada, we honour 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence that starts on November 25 with International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women through to December 10 International Human Rights Day.  Included is Canada’s unique National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on December 6 to honour those that died at the Montreal Massacre.

Violence against women is a violation of human rights.  Every woman and girl in the world deserves to live a life free of intimidation, threat, mutilation, sexual control and fear.  Physical, sexual and mental abuse not only prevents women from fully participating in society but also costs in health care, legal expenses, lost productivity and social development.

Awareness is only the start.  Eliminating abuse and violence against women requires leadership as well as efforts from women, men, parents, politicians, you, me…everyone.  It will take police vigilance in dismantling Incels (self-proclaimed involuntary celibate online men who incite violence against women) and stopping human trafficking.  It will take legislation to catch up on rape kit backlog and change gun laws.  It will take countries to stop female circumcision.  The list of contributing changes that need to occur is overwhelming.

Where do we start?  It doesn’t matter.  Just start somewhere.  Support your local women’s shelter.  Volunteer.  Donate.  Write a letter to your local politician.  Keep an eye on your neighbour.  Believe victims.  Keep watch on your children’s behaviour and the behaviour of their friends.  Question the schools your children attend.   Interject into sexist berating.  Condemn sexist humour.  Inquire if you see questionable behaviour.  Educate yourself.  Do something.  If you do nothing, nothing will change.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and in Canada November is Woman Abuse Month.  In Canada, we seem to be moving forward – internationally not so.  I am concerned about the United States.  Why?  The United States are seen as the forefront of women’s rights and, like it or not, they do influence us.  Why should I be concerned specifically?  Because I’ve just learned that they are one of only four United Nations countries that have not ratified CEDAW.  What is CEDAW?  Read on.

The Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations Human Rights Office in their Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979 issued an international treaty.  To date, 189 of the 193 United Nation states have agreed to be bound by its provisions.  Canada has both signed and ratified the treaty.  Shamefully, although President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty and sent it to the Senate for consent in 1980, it has not yet been ratified in the United States.  Apparently, although debated numerous times within the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it has been blocked from going to the full Senate. The treaty is extensive and requires participants to report in every four years.  Its Article 5 includes, “…to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.”

CEDAW addresses a wide spectrum of gender discrimination, including specific recommendations regarding violence against women.  In Canada, we have found that CEDAW has behaved like a watchdog.  Its recommendations are publicly posted on our government websites. 

So, why has the United States not ratified CEDAW?  One could surmise that it’s because some politicians are concerned that it insists upon fully shared responsibility by both sexes for child rearing and the right to reproductive choice.  Or, perhaps the U.S. just doesn’t like the fact that compliance includes reporting in every four years.

Baby It’s Cold Outside Controversy – Let It Go

By now you may have heard of the controversy over John Legend’s new version of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’.  You may not know, however, that last year CBC and other radio stations in Canada as well as some U.S. stations actually banned the original song citing the uproar over its interpretation as a precursor to date rape. Just a few weeks ago, they lifted the ban.

Apparently Mr. Legend said he was just having some fun and wanted to make a more current version.  Everybody has to have an opinion and there are quite a few that are offended that he’s taken a standard and changed it.  Oh my!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlMP7FGYJmk

In the original by Frank Loesser, recorded by Dean Martin and many other artists, the woman deliberates if she should leave. The man is not only encouraging her to stay, but at times ignores her wishes: My mother will start to worry (beautiful what’s your hurry?) My father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar) So really I’d better scurry (beautiful please don’t hurry) But maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour) The neighbors might think (baby, it’s bad out there) Say what’s in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there) I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now) To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell) I ought to say, no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)

John Legend and Kelly Clarkson have recorded the new version by John Stephens and Natasha Rothwell. In it, while the woman is deliberating leaving, the man is supportive of her possible decision: My mom will start to worry (I’ll call the car and tell him to hurry) My daddy will be pacing the floor (wait, what are you still livin’ home for?) So, really, I’d better scurry (your driver, his name is Murray) But maybe just a half a drink more (oh, we’re both adults, so who’s keepin’ score) What will my friends think? (I think they should rejoice) If I have one more drink? (It’s your body and your choice) Ooh you really know how (your eyes are like starlight now) To cast a spell (one look at you and then I fell) I ought to say, “No, no, no, sir” (then you really ought to go, go, go)

I think we can all agree that what might have been acceptable in the past is not acceptable today. Back then women didn’t have the voice we do today. As art reflects life, many of the songs and movies from eras past portrayed women as subservient. Personally, I’m more concerned with how women characters where treated in older movies than I am with song lyrics. Does that mean we should ban those movies, cut scenes or remake them? No.

I applaud John Legend for bringing this song up to today’s standards. I hope the radio stations play the heck out of it. Now it’s a playful exchange reflecting banter between two adults depicting respect the man has for the woman’s interest and safety. Well done, John!

The Colour of My Poppy is Red

Remembrance Day is important. It is intended for us to remember, respect and be thankful for everyone those whom war has affected. It is all inclusive: those who fought, those who lost their lives, those who lost loved ones.

Over the years, there have been some who have wanted to change the traditional red poppy to white for peace, black for persons with darker skin, purple for war animals. Most recently, in Canada, there has been controversy over a suggested rainbow poppy to recognize those of the LGBT community. The red poppy was never intended to be divisive.

While poppies do grow in other colours, the traditional red poppy comes from “In Flanders Fields”, a war poem written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.

My poppy is red like the ones Lt. Col. John McCrae saw when he wrote his poem. I am sure he was referring to all those who died, not even thinking about the colour of their skin, their gender or sexual orientation.

I will not be distracted by people who want to make a controversy about anything and everything. You can wear any colour poppy you like. I don’t care. You can wear as many as you please. Queen Elizabeth II has worn as many as five. I will wear one and it will be red. It represents those that died fighting to make our world a better place. It represents the respect I have for all, regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation, who fought so that I could live in a free society.

Sometimes tradition is best. At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, for 2 minutes I will bow my head and solemnly thank those who put their lives at risk for me.

Shine The Light On Woman Abuse

I don’t know what I was thinking. No, that’s not true. As I parked my car a few blocks away and walked to the downtown square where they would soon be lighting a large fir tree with purple lights to ‘shine the light on woman abuse’ for the month of November; I was thinking “I’ve healed”, “it’s time I volunteered and got involved”, “I could really help”. You see, it’s been six years and I thought I was ready.

I left the relationship, went to one-on-one counselling, participated in group counselling, even served on the Board of Directors of the women’s abuse centre for six months. I then found a new love, a new city and wrote a 47000 word manuscript about getting away from abuse. It’s one thing to write about it and yet another to actually do something. So I thought it was time to put my efforts towards helping others. My intentions were pure.

As I approached the square, I felt a lump in my throat. I fought through it. I went up to the women’s shelter booth and asked about volunteering. A welcoming woman said, “We’re all volunteers and there’s lots to do. You can do anything from help at an event to wrap Christmas gifts.” I took a card and joined the crowd to listen to the speakers: the mayor, the head of the shelter and then the honouree – a survivor who now counsels victims and survivors.

She was clearly nervous. She didn’t speak of her own ordeal. She directed her communication at social blindness and prejudice toward abused women in general. She spoke of how the public react with either indifference or disbelief. It was powerful. She moved me so I had tears running down my cheeks. I stood there like stone searching to see if anyone else was as impacted as me. Rather than choked up, wimpy women; they looked like warriors, angry activists. I’m not there yet.

When the speeches were done and tree lit purple, an Indigenous drum group performed and I flew from the crowd hastily walking back to my car with tears full flowing. I’m not there yet. My dream is that one day I too will be a warrior.

Woman Abuse Awareness

November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month in Canada. Although some may refer to it as ‘domestic violence’, abuse has a much wider scope. Of course we’re concerned when it becomes violent, but other abusive behaviours can be equally impacting, and can be the harbingers of physical violence. It’s time we started to take notice.

Emotional abuse is likely the most common. It includes: controlling what someone says and does, insulting, blaming, shaming and stalking. Financial abuse is when the partner not only manages the money, but also prevents access to it. Harassing someone at work or damaging their credit score are also forms of financial abuse. Sexual abuse includes coercing someone to perform sexual acts with which they are not comfortable or when they are unable or afraid to refuse. It also includes physically hurting a partner during sex. Technological abuse is the stalking of someone via their phone, computer, and social media.

Each of these behaviours can be precursors to physical abuse. I’m not saying that every time a man calls his wife a derogatory name, or berates her for spending too much that he’s a woman abuser. He’s probably just a jerk who needs some sensitivity training.

What I am saying is this: If your partner frequently behaves in these manners, then he is abusive. If your partner controls your activity, if your partner bullies you, or if you are afraid of your partner; then you are likely being abused. When my ex-husband did these things, I sloughed it off. I thought it was his problem and not mine…until it was too late.

I was a victim then. Now I am a survivor. Take notice. Reach out. If you know anyone who is experiencing these behaviours from their partners, talk to them about it. Help them be aware and be there for them. If you are the woman who is experiencing these behaviours, get help. Be safe.