In a case of tragic irony, a young woman who ardently decried violence against women was shot to death last week on the same day women around the globe staged a demonstration calling for action to stem such violence.
And it happened on Valentine's Day.
The irony doesn't end there. Reeva Steenkamp, a 30-year-old law graduate and model, was killed in Johannesburg, South Africa on the day she was to give an inspirational talk at a school. The next day she planned to wear black to protest the brutal rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl. Using her Twitter account to encourage followers to fight sexual abuse and violence against women, she had tweeted, "I woke up in a safe happy home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals in SA (South Africa)."
Four days later, Steenkamp was dead. Police say she was shot four times in the home of her boyfriend, paralympic star Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with the murder.
The day Steenkamp was killed, women worldwide - Lethbridge included - staged an event as part of the One Billion Rising movement which works to end violence against women.
The One Billion Rising website notes, "One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. One billion women violated is an atrocity."
Those numbers are staggering. They should spark outrage within any citizen with a conscience. It should prompt society to take action to protect our wives, girlfriends, daughters, sisters and granddaughters from becoming another part of the statistics.
The Canadian Women's Foundation website indicates that domestic violence rates have fallen in recent years, but progress has levelled off after a decade of declines. Among the disturbing trends are that victims are less likely to report an incident to police and more women are experiencing violence after they leave their abuser, according to the website.
"On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence," says the website.
The CWF website also reports that "the cost of violence against women in Canada for health care, criminal justice, social services, and lost wages and productivity has been calculated at $4.2 billion per year."
Of course, the human cost is the important one and you can't put a dollar figure on that.
While taking part in the One Billion Rising event in Lethbridge last week, Kristine Cassie, CEO of the Lethbridge and District YWCA, noted that ". . . we all need to stand up, men and women, to say enough is enough, to take a stand and to show our strength and solidarity."
Cassie is right, enough is enough, and men, too, need to be part of bringing about change.
U.S. restaurateur George McKerrow, on the website Men Stopping Violence (www.menstoppingviolence.org), notes, "Violence against women should be a thing of the past. We all need to recognize that the decisions we make every day and the words we use have the power to shape part of the way women are viewed and treated by society at large."
Men play a key role because it is they who are the models for the next generation of men. If they set the example for their sons of treating women and girls with respect, society can take a giant step toward eliminating the violence.
Enough is enough.
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