When in conversations about gender-based violence (GBV) we automatically conjure up images of physical brutality. Violence is often thought of as overt. An assault to your physical being. With this kind of violence there is usually some sort of proof. A broken bone, bruises, a black eye, or even scars. There is physical damage from this type of violence. Damage you can watch heal with your own very eyes. When the wounds are healed and you can no longer see the bruises or when the cast is gone and you can use your arm again, those around you will think you are okay now. They fail to see the psychological damage that is done to the person’s psyche. The wound that takes longer to heal. The injury to their Soul that leaves them wondering what is wrong with them.
As a female non-Indigenous settler growing up on Anishinaabe territory of the Mississauga’s in Ontario I have experienced many different aspects of gender-based violence. From a patriarchal father who thought boys were of more value, sexual abuse in sea cadets, military sexual trauma, sexual assault, abusive marriages, domestic violence, and plain assault. I have been demeaned and revictimized for standing up and speaking out for myself and others. When speaking out about abuse in the Canadian Armed Forces I was told I was “a black mark on Canadian history” and “the worst thing to happen to the CAF” by older men who thought that Women had no business serving their Country and were there for their pleasure. I was chastised and belittled by my local police department when trying to keep safe from my abusive ex-husband who already had 15 charges. I had many judgements imposed upon me for being a single mother without a consistent support system.
The psychological trauma I have faced throughout my life for being a Woman has been more detrimental than any assault to my physical being. I have been objectified and put in a box with a label like a present just for being a Woman. I have been used, abused, and thrown away like a disposable paper plate but I do not go away. I am judged by my looks, what I wear and how I act consistently. I am objectified for wearing things that make me feel good but make other people feel uncomfortable.
The whole problem started with the conditioning by my parents of “what a good girl” consisted of and what they knew about gender conformity. I never felt like “just a girl” and they could never explain it to me. My brother was eleven months younger than me and I could never comprehend why he got to do some things, but I could not because “I was a girl.” I never understood why I could not play football because “I was a girl” and encouraged to become a cheerleader. I could not understand why my other girlfriends thought this was ok. I have done and accomplished much in my life. Graduated high school, served my Country, raised 2 sons basically alone, owned a home for 16 years, got a Nursing degree while working full time and raising those 2 sons, and I left 3 abusive marriages. However, in my Dad’s eyes I will never be as amazing as my Brother. In my family my brother could do no wrong and I could do no right. This left me with a constant desire to prove myself to my Father to my own detriment so now my desire is to prove to myself that I can persevere and continue this quest called life.
When I think of gender-based violence I do not think about the military sexual trauma or the domestic abuse, the demeaning, or the belittling for being a woman, I think about the barriers and limitations that were put on a young girl that kept her from discovering who she truly was because she was too busy fighting the stigmas attached to gender conformity. I think about how it feels to think “maybe if I was a man, they would help me, listen to me or believe me” I think about the young girl who is constantly underestimated, misunderstood, and called things like overdramatic and crazy just because of her gender.
I think about how males and females are equal, complements of each other. I think about how the job should be based on ability to perform and qualifications to do so, and long for the days when gender is not a barrier. I long for the days when women find their voices and the words “because you are a girl” are never spoken again. I choose to believe that one day we will all see each other as family and encouragement and acceptance of all will be the way. Women’s voice will be heard. The masculine and the feminine will unite and gender-based violence will become a thing of the past, like cannibalism.
All views and opinions are mine and mine alone and it is my hope you view them with an open mind and an open heart.