Healing Gaia

On November 25, Wear Purple to Mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Whether you're a man or a woman, you can show your solidarity to eradicate all forms of gendered violence.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published November 19, 2014

In the winter of 2005, I was seventeen months into my separation and trying desperately to get a court date so I could divorce my husband and return to my children. I was living at my girlfriend's mother's home while my children stayed in the matrimonial home with their father.

A temporary order stated that I was to have the children every other weekend until the matter was settled. That order included instructions for the exchange of vehicles. Since we had a Windstar minivan and a Focus, whoever had our five children had the use of the van.

One Sunday evening at 7:00 PM, I returned the children and the van to their father. It was a very cold and dark night and I distinctly remember putting the key into the ignition of the Focus. When I turned it over, Sting blasted out: "Every breath you take, Every move you make, Every bond you break, Every step you take, I'll be watching you."

No, I had not left this CD in the player. My husband had strategically positioned this song to let me know that he was in control of my situation. At that moment I realized this was a stalker song - a song with a catchy tune that professed obsession, power and control but not love.

I continued to persevere through the separation, including the exchange of kids and cars until after a 19-day divorce trial in which the judge awarded me sole custody of my children and exclusive possession of the matrimonial home.

At that point, my ex-husband asked a neighbour to watch me and to keep him informed of what I was doing, who was coming to my home, when I got rid of things from the house or garage - in other words, my neighbour was now stalking me.

I refer to this as vicarious stalking, a pastime in which like-minded abusive men are more than happy to engage.

Somehow I naively hoped things would be different by the time my children grew up, but nine years later they're not.

Women still live in a culture of fear and inequality. Some boys and men still believe that girls and women are less than their equal, to be used, abused and discarded at their whim.

Should a girl or woman dare to think that she could possibly refuse to go out with a man who makes this request, or even consider ending a relationship that no longer works for her, abusive men shift into high gear, which often includes the crime of stalking or criminal harassment.

During the summer, my eldest daughter is home from university and all three of my daughters jog together. They prefer to run after dark, something I'm not all together comfortable with, but since they stay together I have a slightly better feeling about it.

I ask them to change up their route every few evenings and they do. However, it seems my own street is the source of discomfort for these young women.

Over the past few summers, we have had to endure the 'garage boys' - four middle-aged men who hang out in each other's garages on a nightly basis to drink beer, smoke, swear and otherwise be loud and obnoxious.

The group started in the garage of the neighbour who was vicariously stalking me for my ex. Some of the guys have taken to decorating their man caves with Confederate flags and neon beer signs.

But most disturbing is their routine of walking to the sidewalk to stand and glare at my daughters as they begin their nightly run and again while these young women do a cool down walk.

Whether these men pose a threat to my children is not the point. Their actions send a clear message to their own wives, daughters and sons, as well as the neighbourhood at large, that men have the innate right to mistreat and intimidate women.

Tuesday, November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Whether you're a man or a woman, you can show your solidarity to eradicate all forms of gendered violence by wearing purple.

Then, when someone comments on your lovely purple shirt, tie, socks or skirt, you can take that opportunity to tell them you're wearing purple to shine the light on violence against women. Whether it's covert or overt, it's simply wrong.

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

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By ataloss (anonymous) | Posted November 20, 2014 at 12:23:14

So what do we do about this problem to make an actual difference? People know about violence women already, and yet it persists, nay, seems to be getting worse. What practical change can we make?

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted November 23, 2014 at 13:26:46

"The important thing to remember is that when a man remains silent, he misses an opportunity to communicate to other men that the spectrum of sexism and sexual violence is not okay."

Absolutely, and this is way more effective than wearing purple, so step up.

But it doesn't stop there.

The group of obnoxious garage ogglers need to be called out on not just their actions towards women, but their loud, obnoxious behaviour. I'd bet heavily that they also do other disrespectful things to the neighbours like have a wood burning stove (carcinogenic smoke factory) in the garage and fire up the leaf blower and straight piped motorbike at any opportunity, not to mention the barking dog chained up in the yard.

These behaviours are highly linked. They're all about selfishness and disrespect. You can't hope to improve their attitude towards women unless they change their attitude towards OTHERS.

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By Edwin (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2014 at 16:59:09

You're encouraging people to wear purple, but the link you provided in the second-last paragraph says to wear orange ("This year, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women invites you to “Orange YOUR Neighbourhood.")

Is there some difference in nuance of colour that I'm missing, or are there different colour campaigns going on simultaneously?

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