Shelter is good, but we need to name the problem

Have you ever been so angry that you could have hit something? Have you ever been so angry that you could have hit someone?

With the recent announcement of affordable housing for women, it’s natural to wonder at the necessity of such a thing. There is a shape at the edge of our social periphery, a niggling idea in our collective mind, one that we are often too polite — or too ashamed — to put a name to. We use phrases like “dangerous situation” or “family violence” to describe it, perhaps hoping that if we could just avoid calling it by its true name, it might not need to be real. As a woman with a husband whom I love, a father I have compassion for, and male friends and mentors whom I respect, I too am disquieted by the looming reality of which we do not speak. To persist in wishing it away, however, would be as catastrophic as walking onto a battlefield blindfolded.

This is not “family violence”, this is male violence. These women are not fleeing “dangerous situations”, they are fleeing violent men.

Ask any crime statistician: The perpetrators of violence are overwhelmingly male. This week, a woman in our country was killed by her male partner, and next week it will happen again. By the time they are old enough to drive, half the women in Canada will have suffered physical or sexual assault — typically by men and boys.

But violent men are not monsters. They are our fathers, brothers, friends, and colleagues. They are human. Like us, they have been angry enough to hit, to hurt, and to abuse. Like us, in childhood they developed the critical skills of empathy and impulse control and like us, they have the ability to use them. If their actions can be excused with pleas of past trauma, addiction, or poverty, who do we not see equal representation in violent behaviour from the women who suffer under similar circumstances? Why is it that, given equal faculties, it is more often men who appear to choose violence?

I am deeply grateful for the resources provided to women to escape abuse, but I also look forward to a day where these resources will no longer be needed. I believe we are slowly progressing towards the vision of a world where manhood is not defined by aggression and dominance, where women live free of fear. To arrive there, however, I think that we also need to free ourselves from fear: fear of naming the problem. We need find answers to the abovementioned questions, no matter how ugly or shameful they might be, and we need to forge ahead in pursuit of solutions with eyes uncovered.

Brooke Taylor

 

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