We’re going to talk about abuse. Just as a warning to anyone reading this post, it may cause triggers if you have been abused. I just want you to know that you are not alone and a strong individual and that if you need help to please contact one of your local hotlines to talk things out with a professional. I am going to also post some links to help lines and that statistics I found at the end of this blog post.
In 2014, Statistics Canada reports that self reported spousal abuse across Canada sits at 4% which is down from years previous. Women are experiencing 40% of the violence, while men experience 24% of it. The statistics are worse in the Aboriginal communities. One in five women are likely to be sexually assaulted in college according to nsvrc.org . Men are usually the perpetrators of violence towards women and other men. I also want to leave link here to the different types of abuse as defined by the government of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/topics/types-violence-abuse.html This link is going to give you a breakdown of the different types of abuse and violence that can be committed and will also tell you what is punishable under Canadian law.
With all of that stated, I want to point out that this is a serious issues that we still face in society today and I do not think that it is being appropriately displayed in film or the literature that we consume. I’m passionate about the advocacy for accurate portrayal of abuse because I know people who have been through it and I am a survivor of it myself. Personally, I endured a lot of bullying during my formative years at school and my one set of grandparents were emotionally abusive towards me. This is something I am always aware of and looking out for signs of. I do not want to fall into another abusive relationship – especially one that is physical. I have sought out help and have one to counselling for this.
I have a big problem with how some authors portray abuse in their books. They either haven’t done their research into the statistics of abuse or do not look into online forums that users use to connect with others and share their experiences. There is a lot of downplaying of the effect that abuse has on the individual. There is almost the sense of they went to therapy, they worked through it and now they’re fine. They are not. For me, it is something I worry about every single day. I don’t want to be in an abusive relationship. I don’t want to feel small, insignificant and worthless. It’s something you are always on guard for even years after therapy and after the abuser is removed from your life. It’s always on the back of your mind whether you’re consciously aware of it or not and whether things are going well or not.
There are things that trigger you when you least expect it. A lot of the abuse on me was verbal. For example, I hate to go shopping. My abuser loves to pick on me for my appearance. She would look me up and down and tell me I needed to lose weight or no one would consider me sexy. Now when I go shopping and something doesn’t fit it, brings up all those feelings again. Now I am not saying that a person who is abused cannot be well adjusted – I’m proof that you can go on after the abuse like a normal being, but it still affects you.
That’s what annoys me with some authors – they gloss over this and don’t think about this part of things. Their biggest trigger they have for their character is when the abuser comes back and goes after them. Or they feel insecure. Again these reactions aren’t bad, but they’re not the only reactions out there. For example, I have a friend who has been sexually assaulted. She can go on with her life like any other person except for when it comes with dating. She cannot trust a man or get intimate with him – she can’t even kiss a man. This is heart breaking for her as she doesn’t think she will be able to get married or have kids. I have another friend who was sexually assaulted and she went through a period where she slept with everyone as a way to reassert her control of her sexuality.
I want a special note here about sexual assault. I worked as a Vice President at my university’s Students’ Union and another executive and I ran a sexual assault prevention and awareness campaign. We were also instrumental in pushing our university into creating a stand alone sexual assault policy. While that’s important I think it is even more important to highlight the amount of people who contacted my colleague and I telling us about what happened to them and how they were treated after the event. It is NEVER okay to put the victim/survivor down for what they went through. The stories we heard about this happening are appalling. Truly appalling. I can understand police or university officials needing to be truthful, but they need to do so in a compassionate way and to not place the blame on the victim. The victim in no way is responsible for what happened to them.
Through literature I do like presenting life as it is. In this case, I think we should set an example for how people who have been sexually assaulted or abused should be treated. We should also be flipping the notion that the victim “had it coming to them” to putting the blame where it should be – on the perpetrator. We also need to debunk the myth that abuse and sexual assault only happens to women. Men get abused and sexually assault. We also need to recognize that not all violence and abuse is done by men and men alone. Women are also capable of committing abuse and violence. We should be showing all the different statistics in our writing. It helps show those who have gone through this that there can be hope and recovery and that they are not alone and there are ways out of the pain.
- Do your research. Know the statistics. Know how the abuse works and the possible reactions a person can have to it. ( I have posted the links for the stats I used earlier at the end of this post – they would be a great place to start your research).
- Portray it as it is in today’s society without mercy. Critique if you want. Things can be changed here.
- Portray it in such a way where there is compassion and understanding for the victims.
- Know your character and the reactions they can have to the abuse. Don’t down play their reactions.
- Be aware of your characters triggers and use them in your story.
Until next week.