Violence against women is still largely an invisible and hidden problem yet still a significant social scourge. Many victims don’t bear scars of their abuse that are plain to see and the damage is often not easy to understand. I know this, because my wife bears a scar I cannot see and suffered a trauma that I, as a man, can never fully understand. Before we met, she was a victim of a violent, sexually-based attack by a stranger. She has posted online at her blog an account of the horrifying incident and I’ve reproduced it here, after the jump.
Here’s my wife’s account of the terrifying incident from 1997:
I was 12 years old when Marc Lepine stormed into Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique and murdered 14 women. I don’t remember the Montreal Massacre, but for the past four years, every year on Dec. 6, I think of the women he terrorized and killed that day in 1989.
I know how it feels to be scared to death when attacked by a man. I was assaulted just steps from my home four years ago. I was grabbed, spit on and ordered to perform a sexual act.
At home for the summer after my first year at Queen’s University, I was driving home from work one day in June 1997. A man driving beside me wouldn’t let me make a left-hand turn onto my street. I was frustrated and tired and I cut him off.
One block from my house, while stopped at a set of traffic lights, the man got out of his car and started pounding on my car. He started swearing and spitting on my car. The other drivers around me did nothing but gawk.
I started to drive away. The man followed me. I thought if I could get home, I could jump out of my car and run inside my house before he could get me.
I was wrong.
When I pulled into my driveway, I jumped out of my car. The man parked his car beside mine. The next thing I knew, someone was holding me from behind. I thought someone had come to help me. But the person holding me was the man’s mother. In my panicked state, I hadn’t realized there was a passenger in his car.
She screamed at me about cutting her son off and how I was a dangerous woman driver. At one point, she called me “sweetie” and said she had to do what she was doing because women drivers had to be taught a lesson.
After getting out of his car, the man started spitting on my car again. Then he started spitting on me.
I remember looking at the spit dripping down my skirt and then seeing the man undo his belt buckle. I watched as his jeans dropped and fell around his ankles. He then ordered me to perform oral sex on him. He kept saying, “Do it. I know where you live. I’ll get you.”
I was frozen. I couldn’t do anything but stare at his feet.
After what felt like hours, the fear consumed me and the adrenaline started rushing and I felt amazing strength. I pushed the man so hard he lost his balance and the woman let me go. I ran into the house and cried uncontrollably.
My life is different now because my whole sense of safety and security was shattered. When I returned to Queen’s that fall, I walked by myself at night to prove men would not dictate my life, but I was always looking over my shoulder. I was bitter and sad and I felt destroyed.
Over the past four years, I have used that experience as a lesson. I always lock my doors and I stopped walking by myself at night. I never want to feel so insecure and vulnerable again.
Eleven years after the Montreal Massacre, violence against women remains a vile and horrifying problem. I know because it happened to me.
Tomorrow, my wife will be at the Winner’s Store in the Riocan shopping centre in Kingston, Ontario, broadcasting live from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., part of a radiothon that raises money for Interval House, Kingston’s shelter for women who are victims of violence. Give my wife some cash. Unfortunately, thousands of women need it. (You can donate online here.)
By the numbers
» In 2007, there were more than 40,000 incidents of spousal violence in Canada (8 of 10 victims are women)
» In 2007, four times more women than men were killed by current or former spouses
» In 2008, 45 women were victims of spousal homicide
Source: Statistics Canada