Regrettably, one subject is regularly making the headlines these days: domestic violence.
Since the beginning of the year (let’s never forget their names), ten women—Elisapee Angma, Marly Edouard, Nancy Roy, Myriam Dallaire, Sylvie Bisson, Nadège Jolicœur, Rebekah Harry, Kataluk Paningayak, Dyann Serafica-Donaire, Carolyne Labonté—have been killed.
Kicked, punched, skulls smashed by a “blunt object,” hacked to death with an axe… Just writing about it gives me the shivers. I can’t imagine these abused women’s last thoughts.
These deaths in such swift succession have made people realize that there is a problem, exacerbated by the pandemic, and that nothing seems to be able to stop it. We shed tears.
Men like Étienne Boulay and Ricardo Lamour are speaking out to say “Enough is enough!” Men feel concerned. Touched. Men who see that the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, and that most of their aggressors are male. Men who do not bury their heads in the sand and who show solidarity with women. Who ask violent men to seek help. To speak out.
On Friday, April 2, marches took place across Québec to denounce domestic violence, under the banner “Pas une de plus!” (not one more).
Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu has introduced a bill to turn words into action. First action: he listened to women. About a hundred women who are victims of domestic violence were consulted. “We asked them how the Criminal Code and the justice system can better protect them,” Mr. Boisvenu said in an interview. The consultation revealed that an electronic bracelet is a better way to monitor men accused of spousal abuse who are awaiting trial. Once convicted by a judge, the abuser would be required to undergo domestic violence therapy. Senator Boisvenu is also asking that the victim be informed of the release date of her former spouse, as well as the conditions of his release.
This law, which could be adopted by the end of June, according to Senator Boisvenu, is a step in the right direction. At last, “les bottines suivent les babines!” (we’re walking the talk), as my grandmother would have said.
But. Because there is a “but.”
It important to consider that not all women who are victims of domestic violence are in a “traditional” conjugal relationship.
Domestic violence has no boundaries. It can be present in all types of relationships, romantic or intimate.
Domestic violence is when one person in a couple—in the broadest sense—is abused by the other.
Fact 1: The victim and perpetrator do not necessarily live at the same address.
Fact 2: An intimate relationship is not necessarily a romantic relationship. So, a woman who is in a sexual relationship with a man who will turn out to be an abuser is also a victim of domestic violence.
Fact 3: A woman under the control of a pimp is also a victim of domestic violence.
Fact 4: A homeless woman who allows herself to be fondled and touched by a man because she wants to stay with him, to be close to him, to feel a little bit safe rather than being alone in the street, is also a victim of domestic violence.
So yes, Senator Boisvenu’s bill is a first step in the right direction, but it must not be the only one.
Léonie Couture is Founding President of La rue des Femmes.