This week, this paper is publishing an interview with a woman who, 40 years ago, when she was between five and six years of age, began to be sexually abused by teenage male members of an extended family where the adults were close friends of her parents. This abuse continued, involving other young male relatives of her parents’ family for some time.
Later on as an adolescent, this woman, Sarah, made a statement to the Ontario Provincial Police and the Children’s Aid Society about her abuse but nothing came of these accusations.
Sarah, motivated by the #metoo movement that encourages victims of sexual abuse to tell their stories, contacted The Expositor and hence the startling interview.
Gender relationships are learned. Some boys, who will become men, somehow come to believe that they can ‘have their way’ with girls and women, presumably without thought to possible eventual consequences, either for the girls and women or for themselves.
The Montreal Massacre and Sarah’s experiences are points along the same continuum. Marc Lépine, the murderer 28 years ago in Montreal, felt that he should have had a place in the engineering school where he murdered the women students. He wasn’t there because his application for entry had been denied and it’s clear that he felt that he should have been accepted rather than some or perhaps all of those despised women he shot.
In Sarah’s case, teenage boys somehow felt entitled to violate her young body. They felt they had the right, or didn’t consider otherwise. It is clear they did not see her as a real person.
Last Wednesday, December 6, was the anniversary of the Montreal massacre and, as always, a local vigil was held on Manitoulin in their memory and in memory of all the other women killed or injured by men. We now know that this includes Sarah, a #metoo sexual assault survivor and other women with similar experiences.
Recent man/boy or woman/girl violence and sexual assault is, in the course of history, not by any means a unique phenomenon. What is disturbing and frightening is that, in spite of all of the information about motivations and inappropriate behaviours now available to us, abuse directed by males to females continues, seemingly unabated.
This has been a constant theme in this space but the fact remains that the best defense against boys growing up to be abusive men is for their families, as a priority, to tell them and to demonstrate to them that a very important aspect of being male is to have an abiding respect for girls and women that would preclude any suggestion of abuse of any kind, at any age.
There is no question that this can be a tall order, especially with the images of violence often directed against females that are delivered into our homes through the Internet and by video games.
This means, in turn, that as well as schooling boys appropriately about relations with the other half of the population, that parents, grandparents and other caregivers who have the opportunity to supervise and influence young boys’ development must give every attention to screening external influences. Raising children has always been an enormous responsibility.
Raising boys properly in these times is probably one of the most difficult tasks the modern social order has thrust upon us but in light of what we are taught by the interview with Sarah published this week, and by the annual memories of the December 6, 1989 Montreal Massacre and of course the other murdered and abused women closer to home, the proper raising of boys in this particular context is of the utmost importance to the future of our country and whether or not it will continue to be one of the best nations in the world in which to live.
The behaviour of the other cultures in other countries is, of course, an entirely different issue but as citizens of Canada, we must continue to do whatever we can to oppose individual governments and political and religious groups that take it as a matter of faith that they have the right to treat women as objects and chattels.
The last time this newspaper published a story of this nature on the front page was a quarter of a century ago and, by coincidence, it also happened within a week of Christmas.
That story, also graphic in its description, was an interview with a Birch Island man who had been sexually assaulted by Father George Epoch when the abuser was a novice priest at Bishop Garnier School for Boys in Spanish in the 1940s. The priest, following his death, was identified as a lifelong paedophile.
This motivation was the same for both the current story and for the paedophile victim’s interview: a warning of what is possible and how, as a society, we must care for the vulnerable among us.
The paper received some criticism 25 years ago for publishing such an unpleasant accounting so close to Christmas but then, as now, it is a reality that events happen when they happen, happy Christmas scenes notwithstanding. Especially at this time of year, it is appropriate to understand that some careless people do inflict pain on vulnerable individuals and we must resolve to create a society that recognizes this and works to eliminate it.