Editorial: Men must take action

The man who killed Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam, and Carol Culleton just over two years ago has been found guilty of those murders.

It is still difficult to appreciate that these three women were violently murdered in our county. But these crimes did occur. But they should not have happened. The murderer was known to police, he was known by friends, neighbours, to the community at large to be violent.  He had even served time for his previous violent crimes against women. How did our criminal justice system fail these particular women?

According to the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County (Centre), a female is sexually assaulted in Canada every 17 minutes. It is a sad and sickening truth that sexual assault, and domestic violence, resulting in murder, happens in North Renfrew. In fact, according to the Centre, most offenders in Canada are white males. Indeed, while almost half of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of sexual violence since they were 16 years old, only 6 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police. And sexual assault against women is usually committed by someone they know.

Men who commit sexual assault, can come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age and social group in North Renfrew. They can be a woman’s boyfriend, doctor, teacher, parent, clergy, relative or neighbour.

Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature including rape, touching or other unwanted contact.  And with all the recent news of sexual harassment by powerful men over women, what is the difference (if there really is one) between it and sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is defined as any sexual conduct, comment, gesture or contact that could be considered inappropriate or offensive.

Sexual harassment, an act of violence against women, and can be committed by someone offering promotions or raises at work in return for sexual favours or attention. Sexual harassment also happens when someone makes your environment uncomfortable in a variety of different ways, including unwanted sexual comments, unwanted sexual contact, pornographic pictures or cartoons, and anything that makes the environment you are in uncomfortable or hostile.

So what are we, in North Renfrew, to do about this apparent epidemic of sexual assault/harassment? We must all, especially men, be involved in a dialogue on the issue of violence against women and that it happens in North Renfrew.  Men must commit to talking about the life saving topic of preventing violence against women. Discuss it at church, the mosque and the coffee shop.

Talk about it with your children. Talk about it with your child’s teacher and with your local police officer. Talk about it in the hockey dressing room, the hunt camp, and while ice fishing.  The lives of our spouses, daughters, mothers, sisters and aunts depend on how men become engaged in this topic.