The question of ending violence against women

“If you cannot do something, then say something; if you cannot say something, then feel something.  The least you can do is feel something.” anon

 In 2012, I attended a university session on violence against women and could not help but reflect on the tone of anger, confrontation, trauma and demands for justice as a response to the tragedies of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. Certainly the response was very understandable given the magnitude of this tragedy. Individual stories were heart rending.

 I wondered if non-violent communication (NVC) and the ethic of care is possible as a larger part of the way forward. I even wondered about the readiness to think about such approaches given the high levels of emotion present. Perhaps there are other questions, dialogue or ideas to think about in quieter moments. For example:

  • Can we better balance language, the ethic of care and justice as a response to such an issue? To what extent does justice define sufficiency for those suffering the pain of having loved ones as victims, or of being a survivor? What does the ethics of care mean here, and is it worth a greater level of effort than the demands for justice? What is the best balance? Is healing better dealt with by the individual or the responsibility of others, or some balanced combination of both? Society as a whole also needs to heal from this tragedy? How can we do this?

What alternatives or additions are possible?  Perhaps:

  • In the cases of a heavy predisposition for confrontation, to consider reorienting the primacy of justice as a demand, to one of giving some balance to NVC and the ethic of care. I.e. to better entitle as “The Tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada”, vice “Justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women”.
  • This states the fact at hand and the feeling of suffering, and offers an invitation for everyone to reflect and respond how they can.
  • Perhaps another line below stating “The need for compassion, care, voice, reconciliation, healing and justice”. In this way everyone should be able to find themselves in one of these responses and offers broader possibilities for engagement, even if only of feeling deeply for these women and for those suffering today as a result. These possibilities are greater than the overwhelming emotions of confrontation and anger, however justified. There is always time for love and compassion as a first response.

 In addition, the living, who are survivors or continue to be victims of violence, deserve as much attention as those killed. For all of us, memories can continue to victimize, and never go away. The question of how to have a healthy response to the suffering attached to these memories when they arise, is important.  The heart level conversation for awareness and understanding is as important as the mind level conversation to debate and decide on social activism and engagement.

 In the cause of compassion and peace.

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