We need to do better

On days like today, being a woman feels like such a shell to me. I’m a soul within a vessel, and in the time and space that we live in, this vessel isn’t recognized as having inherent value.

The Jian Ghomeshi verdict is a big eff you to sexual assault survivors that says, just take it. Further, it is a message to those who commit sexual assault that says, you can do whatever the fuck you want. GO AHEAD.

How many times have you been followed home at night? Had a stalker continue to contact you for weeks and months and years, their messaging getting increasingly more violent and threatening? How many ‘friends’ have crawled up next to you at a party, sliding their hands up your shirt, and down your pants? What about the time a man stood behind you at a bus stop, putting a camera phone under the back of your skirt, and no one said a thing? How many times have you peeled a man who was ‘just helping’ off your too drunk friend? You would put her in a cab and send her home, except there was that time a cab driver followed a friend into her building and tried to get into her apartment and under her clothes.

And the message from society is – who cares? It wasn’t that bad. Deal with it. Nothing really happened. It’s not a big deal. IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL that you don’t feel safe walking home at night.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL that when you walk to get your morning coffee, you worry about what you wear, because you are not in the mood to hear what someone else thinks about your body.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL that you’ve learned to ignore all men who talk to you in public, even the nice ones, because if one more stranger tells you what they want to do to your thighs and your breasts, you are going to fucking scream.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL that you had to change your coffee shop, and the route you take home, because a strange man started following you slowly in their car and whispering cat calls at you as you just tried your best to get to work.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL that every time you’ve called the police to tell them about a man who continues to threaten you, they’ve said they can’t do anything about it unless something ‘actually happens’.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL that when you told your boss that your colleague’s advances made you uncomfortable, that they said that everyone deals with workplace conflict and that you should grow up, and then you continued to share an office with your harasser.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL if in every interaction in a new space, with new groups of men, that you automatically calculate your level of risk/safety, and potentially an exit strategy.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL that whenever a strange, and threatening man gets too close, and your adrenaline rises, that you think to yourself, “This is it. It’s finally happening. This is the time that I get raped.”

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL that even when it happens, you better hope that you have both a rape kit and a video camera at your disposal, because otherwise, it didn’t happen at all.

We need to do better. We need to value and believe women. We need to believe survivors.

 

 

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Moving along

Just breathe.

My last post was all about family issues. And for me, there are a lot of them. They have played a huge role in shaping me as a person – for better or worse. And while I can now talk about some of them with reflective curiosity, many of them still continue to haunt me.

To this end, while I’ve never shared any of my writing with family members, mentioned them by name, connected with them on social media, it turns out that they’ve started reading along. Maybe they’re even reading this post right now. After my last post, I received no less than 3 messages from my mother telling me that I was selfish, a liar, and mentally ill; they were hate-filled and venomous. And while I can understand feeling hurt and sad after reading that one of your children looks back on their childhood as a minefield, I cannot understand how a parent would think that this was an appropriate response. I stopped engaging with my family members a long time ago, because over the years I learned that there is no healthy way to engage with people who think that an appropriate way to communicate with another human is to call them for the sole purpose of yelling and swearing at them.

So what do I do? Do I stop writing? Do I pick up and start over elsewhere as an anonymous blogger, even though this doesn’t align with my values in terms of transparency? I don’t know the answer yet.

What I do know is that my intention in writing here was not to turn this blog into an ongoing saga of familial issues, so the next few posts will steer away from pain, and look towards the more strengthening, inspiring and elevating relationships and activities in my life. Onwards and upwards, as they say. One step at a time.

 

 

Sleep Out

OMGGGGG, it’s ANOTHER SELF REFLECTIVE BLOG POST. This will be a recurring theme very heavily this year, but also probably for my entire life.

This post will be a bit about my youth, my family’s youth, and my participation in Covenant House’s Sleep Out program taking place on April 7th. (Find my donation page here)

To give a little more context on the Sleep Out program, here’s a short blurb from the Covenant House website:

As Canada’s largest homeless youth agency, Covenant House Toronto changes lives by providing the widest range of services and support under one roof. A national leader, we educate and advocate for change to help at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth by influencing public policy and delivering prevention and awareness programs. By participating in this event I am doing my small part to make sure the doors stay open for all who need them. 

I think that this is a really amazing cause, and I could really REALLY use your support.  Even if it’s just a two dollar donation. Every bit helps.

While this is a great cause just out there in the world, it also holds meaning for me personally, and here’s why.

I am the very youngest in a family with two children. My older brother is 7 years older than me. I don’t know much about the specifics of early family life for my parents, or how and why they got married. But I do know that my mother was an extremely broken woman who I recently realized has very serious Borderline Personality Disorder, and my father was a seriously troubled, ragey alcoholic. MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.

My father was less violent by the time we were old enough to walk and talk, but that being said, my earliest memory is still him pulling a full pot of hot chilli off the stove, and pouring it directly on my mom’s head. I was probably 4. I jumped up on my chair and screamed at him – “don’t you hurt my mommy”. And thank the lord for my being female, because I’m sure that only his weird sense of misogyny kept him hitting a tiny girl. This was our family dynamic.

Though early on my parents made a lot of money, the brokenness of themselves, and their marriage precluded them from using said funds to help create any sort of stable home. We lived in a god damn trailer, and my brother actually slept in a camper van beside the trailer.

So when he reached teenage-hood, it’s not hard to see why he would also turn to growing and selling weed, why he would fail at school, why he would have a warped sense of manhood, and why he would often get in trouble with the police in our small town.

I’m not sure if my brother ever actually ran away, but he did spend much of his time staying with friends. He never finished high school. And in a lot of ways just never gained any sense of footing in the world.

For my own part, I joined every curricular activity imaginable, and finished school graduating as the top science student in my class; my way of coping was over-achieving. But this didn’t mean that I hadn’t come close to going the other way. In 10th grade, I missed something like 200 classes – my guidance counsellor and basketball coach, who I’d known since 3rd grade pulled me into the hall one day, and said that he was worried because this was a pivotal time for struggling youth and the decisions they made at this age determined whether they finished school or not. I brushed him off at the time, but I also stopped cutting class.

I never ran away from home, but not for lack of wanting. While my parents had finally split up, I was now the only one for my mother to take out her obsessive BPD behaviour on. She would regularly start fights with me before breakfast, telling me what a horrible selfish daughter I was until I began to cry, and then refusing to drive me to school. Once, she tried to hit me in the head with a marble lamp base. The summer after grade 12, she kicked me out of the house, and told me that I should go on welfare to support myself. I doubt she even remembers this. I went to live at my high school boyfriend’s parents’ house until university in the fall.

The point of all of this is to say, that while I didn’t use services like the ones offered by Covenant House, it’s only the concern of high school science teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents that kept this from being so. I truly believe that without this outside support I could have easily ended up on the street. And maybe if our social supports for youth from broken homes were stronger, then their lives might have taken very different paths.

So this is the personal connection to this program for me, and why I am asking for your support.

Everyone deserves a safe place to live, where they’re encouraged to thrive and grow. But children most especially.

THE END.