Role models needed to curb sexualized violence against women

When a man is able to commit an act of sexual violence against a woman -- something one out of every three Canadian women will experience in their lifetime according to Statistics Canada -- we have to question...

When a man is able to commit an act of sexual violence against a woman—something one out of every three Canadian women will experience in their lifetime according to Statistics Canada—we have to question who his role models have been.

We have to ask, what has given him the impression he has the right to violate a woman in this way?

When you meet a man who takes pride in the way he treats other people, shows profound respect for the women in his life, who uses his strength in a positive way and knows how to manage his anger, you can almost always trace these characteristics back to a powerful person (or people) who taught him, as a youth, to honour himself and others.

Ideally, the key role models in our lives—who we look to for clues on how we are supposed to live, love and relate—are our parents or primary caregivers. But each and every person we spend time with influences how we think.

What happens, then, when we are not only raised, but surrounded by people who have not been taught to honour themselves and know even less about honouring other people?

What happens if our parents take a passive role in our lives, show aggression and disrespect and we do not have access to alternative nurturing mentoring relationships? What happens if our education system teaches us next to nothing about emotional intelligence, healthy sexuality, anger management and the power of maintaining a strong, loving relationship with yourself and those around you?

In the absence of positive role models, who do we, as youth, look to for these examples?

Do we take example from the national standard set by Canadian politicians? Like the administration of Stephen Harper, who in his apology for Canadian residential schools and the resulting massive disruption of aboriginal familial bonds—the loss of parenting skills and the erosion of traditional knowledge—offered cold cash to show remorse?

From a government that recently removed “equality for women” from the mandate of Status of Women Canada and dramatically cut their funding?

From a parliament where white men over the age of 50 still maintain the imbalance of power?

Do we look to popular culture, such as MTV, Much Music or the many pervasive advertising campaigns where women and girls of younger and younger ages are hyper-sexualized? Sex is trivialized and the relationship modeling would make any active parent cringe. (Please, watch MTV just for a moment to gain an impression of what youth on an international level are exposed to daily.)

Or better yet, do we look to entertainment, such as video games and popular horror movies, where violence is glorified and rape is graphically portrayed?

Do we look to the people immediately around us? If so, what do we see?

What are our role models showing us?

Are women being shown the respect they deserve?

Is healthy sexuality honoured?

Is human dignity upheld in concrete, tangible ways?

It’s up to each of us to model the values we want to see in the world.

This column is provided courtesy the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. Jodi Proctor is the communication agent for Les EssentiElles.