About 70 people came out for the launch of the 12 Days to End Violence Against Women campaign at Yukon College on Tuesday.
The focus of this year’s campaign is “call it what it is.” That means using accurate language when describing violence against women.
The words that we typically use in everyday life and also in the justice system to talk about violence against women serves to implicate women in the violence done against them, explained Renee-Claude Carrier with Kaushee’s Place at the launch event.
“When a man attacks a woman, we call it ‘domestic dispute,’ or ‘argument,’ or ‘conflict,’ or ‘fighting,’ or ‘an abusive relationship,’” said Carrier.
“If I go into a bank and try to rob it, is it called a financial transaction? Why is it that when a person is assaulted with the genitals of another it is called sex?”
Calling a rape sex makes it sound like an act that the victim participated in, rather than a one-way act of violence, said Carrier.
It’s the same thing when we call someone forcing their lips on someone’s face, or forcing their tongue into someone’s mouth, kissing.
And yet these words get used to describe non-consensual acts all the time, both in and out of the justice system, said Carrier.
“The language we use has an enormous impact on the police’s responses, on the court systems, and the capacity of victims to heal from the violence they experience. If we’re not describing it with the right words, how do the police know that what’s going on is deliberate? How do the courts know that it’s not just some Don Juan gone wrong?”
Tosh Southwick, director of First Nation initiatives for Yukon College, also spoke at the event.
First Nation women are much more likely to suffer violence or be murdered, and enough is enough, she said.
“How is it OK that my daughter, my nieces, my aunties and my grandmas are four times more likely to be murdered, for no other reason than the fact that they are aboriginal?
“It’s important that we say, enough is enough. It’s important that we stand up at every opportunity that we have to say, it is not OK for violence to happen against women, and it’s not OK that First Nation and indigenous women are over-represented in these cases.
“It’s not enough that I can teach my daughter to defend herself in order to be safe, which I’ll have to do, because she is four times more likely to be murdered. But I need our community, I need our territory, I need our country to tell her that she matters, to tell her that she’s important.
“You can teach our future generations, both our boys and our daughters, that each person is important, regardless of their background or their race, and that we are all equal, and we all matter. You can teach our boys to respect women. We can teach our young women that they deserve to be respected.”
The 12 Days to End Violence Against Women campaign continues with events this week and next.
The campaign will wrap up with a ceremony for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Friday Dec. 5 at noon at the Elijah Smith Building.
Dec. 6 is the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, where Marc Lepine shot and killed 14 women and injured 14 more before killing himself.
For more information about campaign events, visit the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre website.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at