The heart-breaking wave of feminicides that shook Quebec – including the murder of young Romane Bonnier on October 19, stabbed in the street in front of about twenty spectators – has at least made the authorities and the public aware of violence against women. Not only has the government promised to invest 223 million to deal with the issue, a tribunal specializing in sexual and domestic violence is about to see the light of day, not to mention the “emotional blow” of the government. Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, at the time of closing the consultations on abused women. The minister, who until now was known for his “tough rind”, was applauded. It is certainly a step in the right direction for men, let alone men in power, to be moved by the danger faced by far too many women.
We must also salute the courage of Laurence Jalbert, Ingrid Falaise, Isabelle Huot who dared to speak publicly about their own experience, without forgetting the efforts of women’s groups who, for 30 years, have dealt with an issue long swept under the banner of carpet. In terms of awareness, government ads – “Violence Against Women Stops Now” – are also noteworthy. As much as the advertisements for the coronavirus were awkward and in bad taste, these are also spot on.
Like rape, domestic violence has for too long been seen as a brutal, exceptional physical assault, the result of a man’s sudden loss of control over a woman. Thanks to the research of Professor Evan Stark, we are rethinking domestic violence, less in terms of “battered women” and more in terms of “coercive control”. The American researcher was the first to see that the “form of subjugation that drives most women to seek help” is more “a form of domination that includes isolation, denigration, exploitation and abuse. control ”than with actual blows.
This is precisely what we see in the commercials that are on repeat at the moment. “Change your air when you talk to me.” “” Change your password as I see your messages. »« You have to change friends. »« Are you going to change your mind eventually, you damn boy? This litany of recriminations, uttered by a man in front of his wife, lasts less than 30 seconds. Taken one by one, each of his sentences, lost in the flow of everyday life, may seem trivial. A bad joke that we hasten to forget. But taken as a whole, denigration, control, the need to impose are inevitable. It is impossible then not to see this little game for what it is: intimidation from a man, submission from a woman.
It is important to be able to show these behaviors in their “boilerplate” forms so that more people, men and women, can identify with them. And react. There is a reason, after all, why spousal violence, like sexual assault, continues as if nothing had happened, as if old gender stereotypes had not been challenged for 50 years. . Out of sight, in the cocoon of sexual intimacy or life as a couple, it is easy to clear oneself, to play down, to pass the sponge. In the name of love, children, a home, everything we don’t want to lose, it is easy to renew old stereotypes without realizing it too much. The men get angry, the women pick up the broken pots.
This advertising campaign is also welcome because the excessive control – which can also be exercised by a woman over her spouse, but this is still exceptional – is a better indicator of possible bloody tragedies than the shoving and slapping. and kicks. Why ? As coercive control aims to weaken a woman’s autonomy, freedom, dignity and social support, she is therefore less able to take her legs around her neck at the key moment, or even to “resist. day-to-day efficiently ”.
We do not know the exact circumstances surrounding the murder of Romane Bonnier besides that it occurred, according to the SPVM, “in a context of domestic violence”. As the young artist was no longer living with her attacker at the time of the tragedy, we deduce that she understood that she had to get away from a man who could ruin her life. The aggressor in question clearly did not go through the same development. At the moment of committing the irreparable, the man the 36-year-old shouted, according to witnesses, “I need to do this”, “she must die”, while apologizing (“I’m sorry”) and continuing to lash out on her victim.
So what should he “do” if not have the last word, reestablish his control and bring his girlfriend back to him at all costs, even if it means preventing her forever from being someone else’s? In his study (Coercitive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life), Evan Stark explains that domestic violence is more akin to terrorism and hostage-taking than what is too often trivialized under the label of domestic violence. It is a crime against freedom, imprisonment, long before being an assault or a simple assault.
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