June 9, 2014

Prevention of Violence Against Women

On Thursday evening March 27th I attended the lecture on “Prevention of Violence Against Women” at UBC led by Juley Fulcher. This event was organized by the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) and the Consulate General of the United States in Vancouver. Coming into the lecture there was a lot of hype about the speaker Juley Fulcher and I was very excited to hear her speak. The speaker Juley Fulcher received her JD from Georgetown University and did her PhD at John Hopkins University. She has advocated for survivors of domestic violence for over ten years and is the Director of the Washington DC office of Break the Cycle.

What stood out for me was Dr. Fulcher stressing the importance of healthy relationships amongst teenagers. Learning how to have a good relationship with intimate partners or friends is essential as relationships form the core of the human experience and we will experience several relationships over the course of our life. In middle school and high school we are taught how to write essays, do algebra, learn the basics of biology yet there is no mention of a class on “How to have healthy relationships” being taught in school at least not in the experience of my peers and myself. This holds potential dangers as it may leave teenagers particularly susceptible to peer pressure and unhealthy relationship behaviours.

Unfortunately, unhealthy relationship behaviours impact everyone, regardless of sex and sexual orientation, which Juley Fulcher acknowledged; however, her focus was on the prevention of violence against women. Going into the event I did not know about Dr. Fulcher’s extensive experience with the subject matter nor her level of expertise but after attending the lecture I gained a lot of insight and appreciated how accessible and engaging Dr. Fulcher made the subject matter. Her point about the importance of men as active allies made a strong impact on me. She said “until good men speak up we don’t know which ones are the bad ones”. This deeply resonated with me because as a woman, I’ve found myself generalizing, maybe even turning into a “man-hater” because of the inaction of men. Not all men are bad, but of those good men not all of them stand up for women or rather speak out against men. Women cannot influence men and change their ways, as women may come across as “naggers” or “annoying”. However, with the support of influential men, other men may follow suit and speak out against unhealthy behaviour against women that they witness.

But it isn’t just men who can aid this problem that contributes to unhealthy relationships. Women may come across as overbearing when trying to get their ideas across to men. However, women need to be receptive and supportive towards other women. Essentially women are part of the problem and they need to stop victim blaming. As Fulcher mentioned, it’s not that women are coming from a bad place when they victim blame, it is possible that they are deluding themselves into thinking they will not experience any form of sexual assault as they may wrongly believe that women are responsible for any sexual assault that they experience, whether it be through their manner of dressing, speech or something other than what women believe is the ideal to avoid harm. However, this mindset is outdated and misinformed. Women need to recognize that other women and themselves are to be treated with respect and are not asking for it regardless of what they wear, how late they are out and their sexual experience or lack thereof. Women need to recognize that victim blaming is harmful and that sends the wrong message not only to other women but to men. Sexual assault is never justified.

Thus to prevent violence against women, teenagers must be taught how to foster healthy relationships, men must be active allies and women must stop blaming each other as sexual assault is never justified and we all have to do our part to stop the violence. 

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