by Sarah Allan
Happy International Women’s Day!
I wish that this day could be spent celebrating the successes and achievements of women around the world, but sadly, though its 2013 and we have come a long way, locally and globally the focus is still on the very real and seemingly ever-present issue of violence against women. While it is variously referred to as ‘domestic violence’ (by the B.C. government), ‘family violence’ (by B.C.’s Family Law Act), ‘violence against women in relationships’ (also by the B.C. government) , and other other vague names, it all boils down to, and should accurately be called, violence against women. When talking about an issue as important as this, it’s important to choose our words carefully and with intention, as the language we use to frame a discussion sets parameters for coming up with solutions, whether we mean it to or not. I among others take issue with the misleading labels commonly used to describe physical, sexual, emotional and psychological violence towards women, as ‘domestic violence’ infers privacy and violence that takes place in the home; as ‘family violence’ and ‘domestic violence’ both obscure the gendered nature of what it is most often describing, violence by a man against a women; and as ‘violence against women in relationships’ glosses over the fact that women’s risk of violence increases once a relationship is over. Call it what you will, but i doesn’t erase the reality of violence against women in this country. It is still true that more than half of all Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16 and that women are more likely to be assaulted by someone that they know, than by a stranger.