Monday, March 19, 2012

Issues are Issues No Matter Who You Are

Click the link above. It's a story on women coming forward about sexual abuse they've faced on reserves. They say it's a prevalent problem across the country.

"Attawapiskat is just a small representation of what's happening at our aboriginal communities across Canada," said one of the women in the story.

After two brave women came out with their story, more women started to come forward.

According to stats on a study by the Ontario Native Women’s Association found:

8 out of 10 Aboriginal women in Ontario had personally experienced family violence. In other words, Aboriginal women are eight times more likely to suffer abuse than women in society at large. Of those women, 87% had been injured physically and 57% had been sexually abused (Health Canada, 1997);

In some northern Aboriginal communities, it is believed that between 75% and 90% of women are battered;

Children witness more than half of the violence that occurs between the adults in the home and are also targeted for abuse, especially sexual crimes, with up to three-quarters of Aboriginal girls under the age of 18 having been sexually assaulted.

In summary, these statistics estimate that, at a minimum, 25% of Aboriginal women experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner; however, in some communities, that figure can be as high as 80-90%. In most instances, this abuse happens repeatedly and involves serious physical harm, as well as psychological and emotional abuse. It is also important to realize that up to half of the men report that a family member has abused them. They are much less likely, however, to experience physical injury at the hands of their spouses than are women.

Match those stats with the fact that sexual and violent abuse among non-aboriginal girls and women the rate is closer to 20 per cent.

Some results of this kind of abuse are are suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, gas sniffing and more violence.

We discussed this issue with Colleen Simard, an aboriginal columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and a CreComm grad. The topic seemed like a natural progression since her adorable new daughter was with with her.

Simard said she did worry about her daughter, since Aboriginal women statistically are more vulnerable. She said she didn't want what happened to her, abusive relationships, to happen to her daughter.

To me, this epidemic makes me feel the way I did when we went to see Where Are the Children, a photo exhibit currently at the University of Manitoba. The exhibit displays photos from mostly  residential schools across the country. As the curator said residential schools are one of Canada's dirty little secrets, I think this issue is too. Aboriginal women are abused at an alarmingly high rate and many people don't know, just like many people didn't know about residential schools in Canada.

This blog post is supposed to be about an Aboriginal issue for an assignment. To be honest, I felt uncomfortable talking and writing about "Aboriginal issues." I personally don't like defining stories or issues as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. I don't really think about stories in that way. I think when we start to divide stories into Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal we start to make a divide among people, which isn't good.

I think it's also because we've been taught in j school to tell a story about a murder the same way we would a fundraiser, by emphasizing the personal human story attached to the event. Yes, this story is about Aboriginal women being abused on reserves, but I wouldn't identify it as a Aboriginal story. I'd identify it as a Canadian story that we all need to care about and and be aware of.

I understand that it is important to be culturally aware when telling a story that involves or impacts an Aboriginal person, but I think by reporting on the story as one would any other story is the way to go. I think it's important to not be intimidated by "Aboriginal stories" because First Nations, Aboriginal, native, Metis, etc. people are not different from anyone else.

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