You don’t talk about it.
That was my experience with domestic violence. At an early age, it was something that happened, in my home. Several times. What I didn’t know was the impact it would have on my family and myself.
Most recently, I co-coordinated a 2-year project to raise awareness about preventing gender-based violence on Humber College campuses. Within this project, we worked closely with the Humber Students’ Federation and Humber College to train students to become familiar with violence prevention dialogue. Students were also trained to facilitate workshops on identifying violence and how to support survivours. I was particularly proud of this project – Making Noise@Humber – because it sought to not only empower women but also encourage men to speak about their role in ending violence against women and gender-based violence.
Violence against women happens. Most often at the hands of men. I know it, I saw it. As boys, it begins with the question about how we are “developed to become a man”. There is an expectation that men are to be aggressors and becoming a man is the ultimate fulfilment of our identity. If we fail, we do not become men. This concept of strength then is viewed as the primary qualification to become men. Therefore, within strength is power, one in which we have been groomed to dominate.
Furthermore, it does not help that we live in a man-dominated world (termed as patriarchy) where we believe we own everything. To borrow from Terry Crews, “men are always concerned about their wins and never their losses”. How this translates into our interaction with partners can be trying. Believing this toxic idea of masculinity can lead men to control women through multiple forms of abuse and violence. This includes verbal, emotional, spiritual, financial – and not just physical abuse. While it is important to note that not all men grow up to be this way, many do, and that has resulted in a number of lives lost and torn apart.
December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. As Canadians we commemorate the murdered lives of the 14 women from École Polytechnique as well as those who have been victims and survivours of violence. As a man with such lived experiences, I encourage you to attend a December 6th event in your community to learn about why your commitment to ending violence is not only important and influential, but also understand how violence has affected lives. To admit you have been a victim is one of the most difficult processes to experience. To reach out for help can even be a greater obstacle.
I am grateful to learn about the countless services supporting Women, including the Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, and the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest men’s anti-violence organization – both of which partnered in the Making Noise @Humber project. As a witness I wasn’t aware such support systems existed. Perhaps if I did the outcome would have been different.
It’s never too late to join in solidarity. This December 6th and everyday, join us in helping to end violence against women and gender-based violence. Help us create a space where we can not only talk about it but support each other and become survivours.
I thank my family who has given me permission to share this personal story. Thank you for reading.
Jason Merai, Executive Director, UARR