By Mike Jebbett, Joseph Maiello, Trevor Martin.
(A sanitized version of our rejected Give Back the Night article.)
It's said that everyone in Canada has been touched by violence in some way. Every victim is someone's Father or Mother, Son or Daughter, friend or co-worker. When any member of our society is victimized, each of us feels some level of sorrow and/or empathy for that person and their family. Such is often the impetus for constructive efforts geared toward reducing all violence in our society. On the other hand, there are those in our midsts who choose to divide their concern to two categories of victim: those labelled "worthy" and "unworthy". And only one set of factors is used to make their determination: gender.
Every year a group of women gathers in Centennial Square to start a march in which the focus is on female victims of violence. The only male victims they deem worthy to be included in their march for safety and justice are boys; though it is not clear just how old a murdered boy has to be before he is no longer counted as a worthy victim.
Is there something particularly unique about violence against women that it needs such special attention?
Statistics Canada numbers for 1994 show 378 adult males were murdered versus 61 adult females. That is a ratio of over six to one! Furthermore, 48 male youths, and 4 female youths were murdered; a ratio of twelve to one! New worldwide studies show that substantial numbers of men are victims of sexual assault. Research on the levels of rape in prison show that Ten times as many men are raped in prison as are women in the general population*. And when it comes to domestic assault, there are more than 50 studies done by various methods and researchers showing that men are just as often abused by their spouse - including the category of "severe abuse". For example, the study done by the Emergency Department at Leicester Royal Infirmary in England on domestic violence injuries found "men suffered a higher rate of injury than women", and that "more than 80 percent of these men had been attacked with weapons".
In point of fact, there is NO category of violence in which men do not lead as victims, yet WE do not play the violence-against-men thing - rather against violence, period! To emphasize the "male victim" would amount to a trap, and lead to "excuses" we wish to avoid. To take responsibility of ones' words and deeds is to be a responsible citizen.
What would we think of a group that protested violence by minority immigrants, yet ignores similar violence by their own members? Would the media be as supportive in their cause as they are to those that highlight violence against women by men?
Is it not clear that any group that uses such tactics to de-humanize a particular group are in fact hate-mongers?
At this year's march, so strong was anti-male sentiment that police removed two men merely walking through the park when marchers complained they were "bothering them".
These are marchers who carried signs that read "Lorena Bobbitt was a survivor". Don't we have to wonder at the moral inconsistencies of those who claim to be militantly against violence, yet hold up the image of a violent woman as their hero or icon? For them to suggest the author of a heinous act is a "survivor" demonstrates a profound lack of judgement and responsibility, and perhaps shows us the darker side of women.
And don't we also have to wonder at their constant banishment of male victims from their scope of concern? Aren't all male victims someone's Father, husband, son or boyfriend? Are these victims considered no better than "perpetrators" because they share genders with the few that commit violent crime? A philosophy we would expect from the KKK perhaps. Is part of the problem some sense of "entitlement" on the part of many women? Do they feel that, simply because they are women, they should be given special protection? Perhaps this is a carry-over of our historical past?
Whatever the "reasons", we remain convinced that those who are truly sincere about reducing violence in our society, do not take inventory of a persons anatomy before deciding who is a "worthy" or "unworthy" victim. Violence against any living person is to be condemned with EQUAL vigor and diligence. Those who use the topic of violence to denigrate a particular group of society are the real enemy in our fight to reduce violence. Those who think it their right to stir up hatred and flaunt their bias in the name of "social responsibility" are grossly misguided. Surely we can all see this?
*Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1990, Table 6.33 for 1987-88 data on Jails - 1,210,094 sexual assault victims -United States. Department of Justice, 1990 - 119,780 female sexual assaults.
Published: Victoria Times-Colonist November 14, 1997 Page A17
No way to justify violence
Once again, members of the Victoria Men's Centre attempt to justify/excuse men's violence toward women with a volley of paranoid, inaccurate and hateful statements (Nov. 14).
Men are indeed often victims of violence. This article sidesteps the fact that the majority of the perpetrators of violence are also men.
The ludicrous argument that women ignore male victims of violence can be dismissed by the fact that the majority of front-line workers (social workers, counsellors, activists, etc.) who work with all victims, female and male, are women.
The issues of sexual and physical abuse of children (female and male) were securely closeted until the women's movement made the rest of us start paying attention. Perhaps these (and all) men should take a closer look at what women are asking for in the Take Back the Night March, eloquently explained in Nina Eldridge's article, and how men subsequently respond.
The alleged "anti-male sentiment" the writers see behind the two men removed for disrupting the march is a case in point. These men, like the writers, reacted with fear and defensiveness to women's need for a safe space.
It is ironic that much of men's violence against women stems from men's unwillingness to respect women's personal space (called sexual assault in its most severe incarnation). Writer Mike Jebbett et al state that "To take responsibility of one's words and deeds is to be a responsible citizen." I think we men could put this into practice by the example set by the women's movement: taking positive action in ending our violence rather than attempting to rationalize and discount our violence toward women.
Chris Schmidt, Victoria.