Heart-shaped balloons, chocolate and teddy bears are all part of Valentine’s Day’s trademark. We usually take this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with loved ones, or with ourselves.
In June 2017, the University of Calgary released the results of a study on the connection between sporting events, holidays and domestic violence. The study revealed there is an increase of calls to authorities regarding domestic violence on numerous holidays, including Valentine’s Day.
As the holiday frenzy dies down, I wondered: how does Valentine’s Day affect women who are survivors of domestic violence? How were they possibly feeling on Feb.14?
Following the passing of two women, Jaël Cantin, a mother of six, who was murdered by her husband; and 22-year-old Marylene Levesque, who was murdered by a client, I read horrible comments made about the victims on social media. People partly blamed Levesque for her death because she was a sex worker.
This made me realize that we must address domestic violence and femicides more than we currently do. The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability revealed that in 2015, women murdered by their partners counted for 45 per million population, which is five times more than the rate of men killed by their partners.
Femicide is defined by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability as “the most extreme form of violence and discrimination against women and girls.” Femicides are primarily perpetrated by men.
We should see a lot more prevention measures about crimes against women, such as programs in schools about healthy relationships and gender equality, a lot more commercials about the issue, etc. The media must report on such tragedies. But what comes after awareness? Are we making a difference? Are we looking to change things?
A lot of women who report domestic violence to the authorities feel as though they are not taken seriously or do not have the support they need. Because of this, they are less likely to ask for help if their partners commit another assault.
This must stop. Our society must ensure a safer environment to allow women to speak up. We have to stop blaming and shaming women for something they cannot control. Parents and schools must educate children and teenagers, but mostly young boys on how to treat women respectfully. We must teach the importance of healthy relationships.
As a society, it is our responsibility to come up with firm ways to learn how to prevent violence.
Just like self-defence is taught to women, we should continue to teach the importance of consent and the consequences of violent behaviours. This education should not only apply to men, but to everyone. Giving special attention to proactive measures such as consent training will empower people in terms of understanding the effects of domestic violence and consent in a fair way, rather than implying that reactive measures like self-defence, are the only ways to handle the issue.
Women need emotional and legal support. They should be able to feel secure and loved by their partner without any fear.
Valentine’s Day is not just about flaunting our idea of a ‘perfect relationship.’ It’s also about acknowledging the women who are suffering behind closed doors.
As we all enjoy the day to celebrate love, we also have to remind ourselves of the negative impacts that Valentine’s Day may have on women in an abusive relationship. Let’s not just talk about domestic violence, let’s find a way to change the way things are.
Photo: Sasha Axenova