Another Charge for Sexual Assault

Deeply saddened, angry, confused, disillusioned as I hear of yet another friend in Canada charged for sexual assault. Wondering how deep patriarchal violence dwells. How deep and how complex yet inexcusable… Within the past four years three male friends working within social justice/human rights contexts charged for sexual assault.

Trying to get my head, my heart around all this.  Maybe for these men, women are at the bottom rung of human rights; maybe women are not even considered part of what it means to have rights. Maybe these men succumbed to the patriarchal bullshit we’ve all grown up with. Maybe that’s what one of my girlfriends meant when she said “the man weak” after I told her.  I’m still trying to understand the word weak in this context. Immediately I assumed she meant weak because he was unable to free himself from the patriarchal bullshit he has learnt from the day he was born, learnt from the world all around him that women are sexual objects first and foremost and that men are entitled to women’s bodies regardless of human rights for all.

I think of the recent charges to UN peacekeepers in Haiti and Central African Republic, UN peacekeepers charged for sexually assaulting children, boys and girls while working to secure peace.  I think of a friend of mine who was in Bangladesh a few years ago after the horrific storm that left millions homeless and thousands killed, how she witnessed abuses from the very people who went to help. Witnessed other relief workers giving preference to those they felt more worthy of care. Thus many people who were known to belong to LGBTQI communities were excluded as were those labeled prostitutes or other folks from marginalized groups, excluded from the very protection the peace workers went there for.

I think of the violence that resides in all of us. I think of the great irony of the work I do in community peacebuilding and that on an institutional level most people think the work of peacebuilding is the work related to national security. That peacebuilding relates to war torn contexts and not to the war that wages in all of us and how this war within directly affects our families, communities, workplaces, nations, regions and world.  The war that wages within, is a war that is created by cultural, political, economic, social systems which quite often we don’t want to define as violent. There are many of us who see this as indirect violence leading to the direct violence we see happening within all our communities,, countries and the world.

Why is it that many of us are desperate for our children to learn math and languages geography and information technology, but we are unwilling to fight for peace educations as a major subject in all our schools. What would the world look like if we were teaching kids about their own violence, dismantling what the world has and is teaching them? What would this world look like if we unpacked peace, unpacked violence and conflict taught our next generation to go deep within themselves to understand they too will need to do the work of peacebuilding starting with themselves first and foremost in order to contribute to the peace in their families, communities, workplaces, country and world.

I take a long deep breath and know we all have our stories and these stories are universal. These stories begin with the self but are contextualized in the story of our families, our societies our world. How do we learn from our stories, universalize our stories to create change? How do we not shut down but use story to create movements! I give thanks and praise for the many good men in my life and I nah give up on men in general because I know we better then what we’ve learnt and we all have the potential to change and make change happen.

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