KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On April 19th the largest mass shootings in Canadian history ended. Before the violent misogynistic man was shot and killed by the RCMP, he had committed 13 femicides and 9 homicides.
Seven weeks later Minister of Justice Mark Furey stated a joint federal-provincial inquiry or review into this horrendous mass killing will happen. He described this developing process as broad in scope, needing judicial leadership with the ability to compel witnesses to testify, so recommendations made are binding on agencies.
A critical piece in a federal-provincial broad in scope inquiry, or review, requires the inclusion of a feminist analysis addressing male violence against women or “gender-based violence” as Minister Furey named it. This framework is absolutely essential to examine how the RCMP understands and responds to complaints of male violence against women.
For instance, Brenda Forbes reported that this killer was a dangerous man who had guns, who assaulted and strangled his female partner. Why were her reports of the killer’s serial assaults and strangulation of his female partner not acted upon by the RCMP? Was the potential of a femicidal risk ignored by the RCMP? Acting to intervene when men commit intimate partner violence can help prevent femicides. Mass killings are frequently associated with male violence against female partners. What did the RCMP do with this knowledge?
Viewing the “RCMP update about the Nova Scotia mass shooting investigation” covered live on CBC News, June 4, left us distressed and outraged. Stating the mass killer was an ‘injustice collector’ according to the psychological autopsy, ignored that men injustice-blame women they assault or torture. Instead, why were the killer’s misogynistic serial assaulting, his strangulation of his female partner, plus his possession of guns not suggested as the potential reasons for his mass femicidal and homicidal rampage?
Does a culture of sexism and misogyny regarding male violence against women exist in Nova Scotia?
A federal-provincial inquiry or review must answer this question. To do otherwise would mean intentionally ignoring that systemic sexism exists in Canada and in Nova Scotia as it does globally. To do otherwise would mean willful federal-provincial silencing of the misogynistic violence male assaulters and torturers inflict against women and girls. It would mean deliberate federal-provincial dismissal of the research that male violence against women can lead to femicide and mass shootings. Therefore, there is no other choice.
A feminist analysis on how systemic sexism and misogyny impact on reports of male violence against women and girls is essential in a broad scope federal-provincial inquiry or review. Asking the RCMP to address these questions is not being destructive. Speaking openly and transparently to answer these difficult questions is necessary to transform our culture, agencies, and relationships.
Systemic sexism and misogyny: Herstorical political and judicial realities
To slip back in time to show how sexism and misogyny are Canadian realities, let’s drop in and visit Margaret Mitchell. In 1979 she was elected to the House of Commons. On May 12, 1982, during question period, she stood up to address Judy Erola, Minister of the Status of Women. Margaret began her statement with “one in 10 Canadian husbands beat their wives regularly.” Misogynistic laughter, heckling, and “vulgar jokes” were unsuccessful in silencing her. Persevering she said, “Madame Speaker, this is no laughing matter.” Supporting Margaret, Judy Erola said she did not find the men’s derision amusing “and neither do the women of Canada”—not then nor now.
When Barbara Greene submitted “The War Against Women” report to the Canadian government in 1991, it included Ann Sharp’s example of this sexist misogynistic judicial judgement:
A woman whose ex-partner was convicted of aggravated assault against her….was hung by ropes, naked, from the beam of a barn and whipped to…unconsciousness….in front of the male’s three children….[H]e received…a $200 fine and three years’ unsupervised probation. The woman sat, disbelieving, as he was…fined $500 for an unrelated charge of possessing illegal venison. Based on this sentence, one could argue that in the future moose and deer would be safer from this man than the woman he tortured.
This man’s torture of his spouse takes us back to the year 2000 and our two and half years of supporting Lynn recover from the torture she survived. In brief, Lynn said:
I was called bitch, slut, whore and “piece of meat.” Stripped naked and raped – “broken in” – by three goons who, along with my husband, held me captive in a windowless room handcuffed to a radiator. Their laugher humiliated me….Raped and tortured…I was choked or almost drowned when they held me underwater…in the tub….I was whipped with the looped wires of clothes hangers, ropes and electric cords; I was drugged, pulled around by my hair and forced to cut myself with razor blades for men’s sadistic pleasure. Guns threatened my life….Starved, beaten with a baseball bat, kicked, and left cold and dirty, I suffered five pregnancies and violent…abortions….I saw my blood everywhere when I was ganged raped with a knife. Every time [my husband’s] torturing created terror in my eyes, he’d say, ‘Look at me bitch; I like to see the terror in your eyes.’ I never stopped fearing I was going to die.
Lynn lived in Bible Hill where the RCMP detachment is located. For over 20 years Lynn had not told of the torture she suffered because when she tried, she said, no one believed her. Despite this long lapse of years, late one night Lynn received a threatening phone call from a man who told her to “shut up”—to stop working with us. We witnessed Lynn call the Bible Hill RCMP detachment, leaving a message that was never returned.
The depths of misogynistic violence that men inflict against Nova Scotian women and girls must be appropriately named so their victimization reports can be understood. For instance, distinguishing an assaulter from a torturer is significant. Misogynistic attitudes feed the male assaulter’s exertion of power and control and violent behaviours; as well, misogynistic attitudes feed the torturer’s organization of their dehumanizing torture acts as Lynn briefly described. To illustrate these two levels of violence against women and girls we have listed the behaviours in the accompanying chart.
Systemic sexism and misogyny: Policing realities
This question of whether sexism and misogyny exists within the RCMP is justified. RCMP Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau stated there is a culture of misogyny within the RCMP. Such a culture must be examined to understand how misogynistic attitudes influence how the RCMP as an agency responds to reports of male violence against women, or even think about women and girls as persons. A former female RCMP officer told us she often heard male officers use misogynistic put-downs by referring to pregnant female officers as “cunt guts.” Given that men’s violence can begin when their female partner is pregnant and the risks for femicide can increase, such language ought to raise red flags that sexist misogynistic attitudes exist in the day-to-day culture of the RCMP? How do such attitudes influence investigations of men’s violence against women and girls?
In the 1995 article on the book entitled, Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence, only the Halifax Regional Police department and another municipal police department offered information about officers assaulting their partners. Based on American research 40 percent of male police officers admitted during a six month period they inflicted violent behaviours against their spouse and children. How this translates into Canadian reality is unsure. Perpetrators apply whatever efforts they can to prevent being exposed; we assume complaints can be circumvented with the same tactics used by non-police perpetrators. Such as applying pressure on a spouse not to file a complaint or maybe the Blue Wall of Silence shelters another officer’s actions that are criminal, corrupt, or brutal.
One female police officer who had several intimate relationships with other police officers told us she endured violence. She described being shoved very hard, being physically battered when hit in the face, having blackened eyes, bloody lips, broken ribs, being brutally forcedly anally raped, and being strangled once.
Lynn, introduced previously, spoke of the police officers who came to rape and torture her when she was held captive by her husband and three of his male friends.
Besides the reality that male police officers do commit violence within their ‘intimate’ relationships, a report by Pam Palmater highlighted that an RCMP investigation found their own involved in corruption—perjury, falsifying evidence, and organized crime. Additionally, Palmater references physical and sexualized assaults perpetrated by numerous RCMP officers, plus a culture of “bullying, sexual abuse and harassment.”
This month Sara phoned to described being at the Bible Hill RCMP station. While there she explained she was born into a family that tortured and trafficked her all her life. And that she was in her early 30s before she got out, offering, she said, to help others if needed. Sara said the RCMP officer replied with, “We don’t deal with that.” Sara was the first Nova Scotian woman to ask us for support in her efforts to recover from decades of torture, trafficking, and other forms of victimizations including suicide-femicide conditioning. The mass killer’s female partner feared for her life which calls attention to the potential of femicide. One of our graphic writings about femicide in Canada was translated by Russian women into their Russian language. Women in Greece are uprising about the torture and femicide of Eleni Topaloudi. We are all angry, fighting back against systemic sexism, misogyny, and femicide that devalues and dehumanizes all women and girls and even degrades a woman’s normal pregnant physical form as a “cunt gut.”
There is hope. This week a woman called us. She cared about her friend who had suffered serial physical assaults, including being awakened at night by the pain of being strangled by a violent male partner. This violent man made this threat: “You better get your daughters on birth control pills because I have plans for them.” Her daughters are pre-teens. This bystander friend felt responsible to speak of her concerns for her friend and daughters, and to offer her friend new knowledge about the risks of strangulation that can cause femicide.
There is hope. Honest and painful Nova Scotian conversations are needed. Insights into types of misogynistic male violence domestically committed in Nova Scotia need to be understood so when men’s violence against women or girls are reported to the RCMP and spoken of in communities they will be taken seriously and not dismissed. What will it mean when we remove the abuses of power that systemic sexism has afforded male assaulters and torturers? What will it mean when the weights of oppression, shame and blame no longer exist to break the silence of getting honest about what male violence against women and girls means?
What is the life and value of a woman or girl worth? Almost nothing if these hard and painful realities of systemic sexism, misogyny, men’s assaults, torture, and femicides are not laid bare on Nova Scotian soil in a federal-provincial inquiry or review.
We can do this.
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