Starting in the late 1960s, women came together in consciousness-raising groups to reveal their individual experiences to each other. Through these discussions, women realized that violence against women is a collective oppression that affects all women. They realized that this collective experience reflects and reinforces the power relationships between men and women.
This understanding was the feminist catalyst for the creation of anti-violence services and it has been deepened and reinforced by the knowledge accrued by front-line workers: rape crisis centres, transition houses for battered women and women’s centres.
The accumulation of stories told by hundreds of thousands of women across the world, revealed how men use their relative power as men and often the relative power of their race and class to attack women. This understanding of male violence as a crucial force in women’s oppression rippled and resonated across Canada.
In December 1989, in the days after the Montréal massacre, Canadian women took to the streets. They knew, in their anger and grief, that the murder of 14 female students was extreme but also that it was connected to women’s common experience of male violence. Recently women all over North America expressed the same notion when they coined the twitter hashtag YesAllWomen.
In the early 90s, the Canadian government had to concede to the mounting pressure from women for social change and to respond to feminist demands for new laws and policies that would address women’s inequality in general and violence against women in particular. It was in this context that different state agencies started to collect and analyze data and statistics on male violence against women in Canada.
Once the counting started, there was no way back. Today we have not just the knowledge gathered by frontline feminist groups, like Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, who respond to more 1,200 new women every year, we also have access to data from different provincial and national intuitions.
The report by BC Coroner Service from May 2010 states: “While males are more likely to be victims of homicide in general, domestic violence homicide victims are more likely to be female than male.”
The report shows that, in cases of domestic violence homicides in B.C. between January 2003 and August 2008, 24.7 per cent of the victims were male while 75.3 per cent of the victims were female. The male victim data include boy children who were killed by their father.
Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends published by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics in February 2013 shows that, “Women have higher rates of intimate partner violence than men” and that “In 2011, eight in 10 victims of police-reported intimate partner violence were women.”
Women usually commit violence as a desperate attempt to defend themselves or their children, so even these high numbers do not fully represent women’s reality.
Exposition of male violence against women has faced backlash, much like every other feminist gain. Sometimes it is subtle, like the terminology “domestic violence,” terminology that hides who is the victim and who is the perpetrator; or the Globe and Mail editorial from last month arguing that the upcoming National Inquiry “can’t just be about the women.”
Sometimes the backlash is blunt, like in men’s rights propaganda that denies that men rape, beat and kill women to the extent that they do and seeks to assert men’s rights to control, exploit and abuse women.
We must hold fast against these attempts to deny our reality. We must insist on true accounts of violence against women. Because this truth is power in our fight to end male violence against women, in our fight for our liberty and freedom.
The article was published in the Vancouver Sun