The degradation of our society is evidenced in the manner we treat incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assaults.
In speaking with a friend yesterday, she mentioned that a Facebook ‘friend’
(and I use that word in the most loose way possible) was making unwanted sexual advances toward her regularly. When I asked why she didn’t simply delete him, she responded that it was a part of everyday living. She is wrong. There is never an excuse for sexually inappropriate behaviour. There is never an excuse for harassment or assault of any nature.
Unless we shine a blinding hot light upon the stigma that is sexual harassment and sexual assault, the status quo of silence will remain firmly in place. Far too often we are complicit in these acts of violence. Whether we are witness or victim, our voices must be loud, clear and unshakable when we tell the perpetrator in no uncertain terms, “That is not okay.” This must be our constant mantra. There can be no fear when we speak to the offender. The change will begin with us individually, one incident, one woman at a time. “If not us who? If not now when?”
In an effort to begin grasping the magnitude of this plague, a visit to Toronto Police Service’s website and their Sex Crimes Unit page is apropos. The website reports, “Sexual assault is a vastly under-reported crime. According to Statistics Canada, only 6% of all sexual assaults are reported to police. In one study, women gave the following reasons for not reporting incidents of sexual assault:
• belief that the police could do nothing about it (50% of women gave this reason)
• concern about the attitude of both police and the courts toward sexual assault (44%)
• fear of another assault by the offender (33%)
• fear and shame (64%)”
Further, there are these shocking numbers:
- Sunday, September 16, 2012 - A 34-year-old female reports that at approximately 1:15 pm, she was in the area of Bloor Street West and Spadina Road when she was sexually assaulted by a male suspect.
- Sunday, September 16, 2012 - A 53-year-old female reports that at approximately 9:50 pm, she was in the area of Rockcliffe Avenue and Topham Avenue when she was sexually assaulted by a male suspect.
- Monday, September 17, 2012 - A female of unknown age reports that at approximately 3:05pm, she was in the area of Warden Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East, when she was sexually assaulted by a male suspect.
- Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - A 18-year-old female reports that at approximately 8:32 pm, she was in the area of Arboretum Lane and Norfinch Drive when she was sexually assaulted by a male suspect.
- Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - A 52-year-old reports that at approximately 2:15 pm, she was in the area of Bayview Avenue and Kilgor Road when she was sexually assaulted by a male suspect.
- Wednesday September 19, 2012 - A 23-year-old female reports that at approximately 11:40 am, she was in the area of Dundas Street West and University Avenue when she was sexually assaulted by one male suspect.
These assaults represent only some of those reported in the city of Toronto over a four day period. It is clear that the collective sexual predator is getting more comfortable. Whether on the University Campus (where a female student reported a sexual assault to school officials) or on public transit (27-year-old woman reported being sexually assaulted aboard a subway train) the scourge festers and grows.
One sexual assault is one to many. We must not tolerate it, from anyone, anywhere, at any age, in any form.The message must be loud, clear, singular and constant. We will not be silent.
Too often fiction is perceived as fact, and myth is confused with message.
The following exchange found on Facebook, from Sanya JillofallTrades Joy, teaches us that we need to be certain of what we know to be true. We need to be certain of our reality.
“Yesterday [my sister] and I were heading home from a long, over 1000 mile road trip. As the journey came to a close, we were both tired. We drove by the airport and a plane flew low over the highway. I said to [her], ‘I guess I’m tired because I was thinking that there is a car flying’. She exclaimed ‘Girl I thought the same thing! I was wondering how that car had so many lights!’
“Regardless of the journey we are on in life, please know that when we get tired, we may begin to see things that really are not there. You may be tired in your relationship and begin to see things that are actually not there. You may be frustrated with your church or job and begin to hallucinate and misinterpret things that you are seeing, or that are happening around you.
“Take a moment, breathe, rest if you must and look again. You might discover that it really isn’t a flying car, it’s simply a plane. We become weary of our situations then all of a sudden we think this one is out to get us or that one doesn’t love us or the other one is a threat to us; when in actuality, we are having a hallucination. Nothing is there, or if it is, it’s not what we think.
“Let’s not make drastic decisions when we are tired. Regroup and look again before it’s too late.
“Don’t use your temporary hallucinations to cause you to make permanent decisions regarding your life.”
A Quick Word
The recent spate of sexual assaults in Toronto’s Christie Pits Park, have left me wondering what causes a person to visit violence upon another. Myriad speeches are given and voices ring out in rage when we address the issue of violence in any of its forms. But when a woman experiences violence – especially domestic and or sexual violence – the clarion call for action resounds to the heights of heaven and the depths of hell.
Marches are organized, songs are composed, poetry is crafted and we ensure that programs are funded in the fight against violence. This is right. There can be no wavering in this endeavour. We educate the public about this plague; we educate women and girls about the danger, but what of the men? What of the boys? Unless we begin to change the way our male children view and value women, the scourge of sexual and domestic violence will continue into the next generation.
With a steady diet of violence from music, television, video games and the playground, we cannot in all good conscience expect anything other than a spilling over into everyday behaviours. Let me be clear, it is not my position that every person bombarded by violence as ‘entertainment’ transfers that violence to reality. However, when violence is imprinted upon the social consciousness and social DNA of an entire generation, expect nothing more that violence visited upon each other.
When we teach our sons how to throw a ball or slap a puck, let us also teach them how to gently hold a hand. In our zeal to have them learn the proper way to hold a razor, let us have them learn how to hold open a door. Teach them how to hug. Often, we think small things are irrelevant – they are not. If we will consciously, consistently teach our sons – regardless of our biological connection or their age –who and what women are, we will redeem ourselves as guardians of the next generation.
Teach them to be kind to each other,
and they will be kind to the world.
I am not naïve enough to advocate a utopian society, but certainly we must begin in the home. Though the flood seems to overtake us, we must be steadfast in our pursuit to stem the tide of violence. It is not enough to be shocked and outraged when the news brings violence to our attention. We must not tolerate it, from anyone, anywhere, at any age, in any form.
Great theatre is still alive and well!
With Michael Charles at the helm of Profile Entertainment Group, they continue to ensure that Toronto is graced with and by quality theatre. Friday September 2 saw the first performance and Saturday September 3, 2011 will see the last showing of the must see urban musical, “Church Girl” at the Sony Centre For The Performing Arts, 1 Front Street East in Toronto, Ontario.
Playwright Angela Barrow-Dunlap has become so adept at crafting quality work, that Urban Theatre’s Leading Lady is often called “The Doctor”. In her play “Church Girl”, Barrow-Dunlap, operates on issues often ignored in church circles. The play’s simple tag line will draw the inquisitive. “What would make a church girl give up her soul to dance on the pole?”
This classic tale of good battling evil is masterfully told under the very capable direction of Reuben Yabuku.
Your emotions will run rampant as you journey with well-developed characters through their own troubles. During the entire performance, I admit my eyes misted several times; I laughed so hard my throat and stomach hurt.
Juxtaposition is widely used to breathe depth unto a stage that keeps your head turning in order to keep up with each scene – The clashes work.
Along with local Canadian actors, the seasoned cast include Demetria McKinney, who plays Janine on Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne”; Clifton Powell, who played opposite Jamie Fox for the film “Ray”; A’ngela Winbush, and Robin Givens. With the entire cast delivering memorable performances, this “brief review” cannot hope to adequately explore the full range of acting, dance and musical talent with which the audience was presented.
Demetria McKinney plays protagonist Emily Franklin, the “Church Girl”. Mckinney elegantly brings life to a character morphing through the turbulent phases of self discovery. The beauty of Demetria, is that she is at ease with the yin and yang of the young woman who must chose her own path. Torn between the “calling” of the Lord on her life and the call of the world, Emily must decide how to have her cake and eat it too. When Demetria McKinney delivers her lines or reaches for a musical note, it is Emily Franklin that is personified.
Clifton Powell treats the audience to a simply awesome performance as the antagonist Jacob Sinclair. As the perfect villain attempting to ease himself into the life of our church girl, Powell is simply “believable”. Whether it was the lighting, his own personal ominous soundtrack of the intensity of Powell’s face, Jacob Sinclair is not mistaken for anything other than what he is. In interviewing Powell, he sums it up perfectly, “Sinclair is a bad guy.” In taking the stage, Clifton Powell leaves himself in the wings and allows his character the privilege of coming to life.
No stranger to putting her soul into music, when A’ngela Winbush as Maya Franklin opens her mouth in song, you stop and listen. As Emily’s mother and pastor of the church, she is integral to this urban tale that is sure to continue filling theatre seats.
Robin Givens playing “House Mother” Catherine ‘Cat’ Jones provides us with a character we must either feel pity for or despise. Though there are times when it may seem unclear how you “should” feel about the woman “in charge” of the girls, we will agree that without Cat Jones, the story would lack a certain je ne sais quoi.
With scenes that often threatened to turn the audience into a congregation of worshippers, Church Girl accomplishes the sometimes daunting task of pleasing theatre goers at the very core. There are truths that you will recognize, truths you may want to shy away from. This story, does not allow you to hide in the shadow of ignorance. More than quality entertainment, “Church Girl” educates. The play is a social commentary of the possible mental state of our youth and the slippery slope down which they can slide.
Find a way to see this production. Tell a friend – you will not regret it.
September 3, 2011 8:00PM
Sony Centre For The Performing Arts:
1 Front Street East
Toronto,ON M5E 1B2,Canada
When my three-year-old daughter looked at the crashing waves on Friday,
she refused to go into the ocean alone. Alaila allowed me to carry her only about three feet into the water before she wanted to return to the safety of the hot sand beneath her feet. We sat dry together watching her brother frolic in the cold water. While it is true that she was having her own kind of fun sitting there with her dad, Alaila wanted to play with her big brother – But that water was daunting. Frankly, she was scared.
Saturday found us walking the boardwalk and crossing items off a list my eight-year-old son made the night before. We walked for two miles and spent three hours exhausting all that Nathanael wanted. Alaila requested nothing special. The day came to a close and we got into the car. It was then that Alaila announced, “I want to go into the ocean.” Suffice it to say, I was inclined obliged her.
Having spoken about this the night before and earlier in the morning, I was under the impression that the three of us had come to an arrangement that there would have been no water play. I asked them if they wanted to go in, or just wet their feet. “Just wet our feet!” they both announced in chorus. Based on this prior understanding and current agreement, I locked the car and we headed to the waves without changing into bathing suits.
I rolled up Nathanael’s pants to his knees and set him loose with his sister to feel the ocean on their feet one last time before beginning our three-hour drive back home. Braver than before, Nathanael increased my heart-rate by venturing farther into the crashing, salty bully – defying, daring the white crests to knock him over. His pants and t-shirt were soaked, but he didn’t care, this was the pinnacle of fun!
It was Alaila who taught me the lesson of the weekend. The little princess who would normally insist on wearing herbathing suit had one mission – getting into the ocean. The little girl who was afraid on Friday, would face those fears on Saturday head on. Slowly she walked away from the shore until the hem of her dress was wet. Not having enough, Alaila walked farther until the waves rushed in – then she ran back to safety. She danced to this ebb and flow until she pointed out, “I am soaked!”
This child who once had only tears for the sea, now had laughter for us all. Sitting quietly in the path the edge of the waves, she discovered that there was nothing indeed to fear. As her brother grew more daring, she would glance back at me and see that I was still standing in the same spot watching them both. Every now and again, Nathanael would rush back and sit with her a bit. Alone again, she would walk out another few inches and sit again, glancing back to make sure that I was still watching her.
Then the inevitable happened. A wave stronger than she was knocked her face first into the sand. Before she was all the way down I was moving toward my daughter and calling Nathanael to come in so I could pay attention to her. We both checked on her and she was fine. Alaila cried very briefly – I think more from surprise and my reaction than anything else – before simply going back out into the water.
There is a simple lesson, a universal truth that we so often forget or ignore. If we watch children, we will learn that lesson and be inspired to pursue whatever we desire. Do you fear it? Face it! If there is something that you want but you fear, face that fear and you will receive the reward of a satisfied appetite! You may not be wearing the ‘right’ clothes; you may be wet, cold and uncomfortable; but if you hold on to what you know will always be there, whatever you desire can be accomplished.
Recently, I came across a Facebook status from Sanya Joy, which mentioned Michelle Obama speaking to British young women at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in London. One particular comment from that status drew discussion:
“Trust your instincts. Good relationships feel good, they feel right, they don’t hurt, they’re not painful.”
“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your
tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
“Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,
that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
“All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart,
and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
“But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness
and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
“When you love you should not say, ‘God is in my heart,’
but rather, ‘I am in the heart of God.’
And think not you can direct the course of love,
for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
“Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise upon your lips.”
The succinct comment that followed (“she is right – good relationships don’t hurt.”) is the impetus of this blog. My position is simple – good relationships can and do hurt. To be fair, Mrs. Obama was answering a question asked by a 13-year-old girl. She was not delivering a well-written, smoothly delivered speech. In the grand scheme of things, the nucleus of the statement is accurate. The innate nature of a good, healthy relationship does not deliberately seek to cause pain. However, it would be a mistake to subscribe to the theory that in a “good relationship”, the existence of pain is absent.
Of all we have read, of all we learned, of all the people with long-lasting relationships that we know, where did we get the notion that love does not hurt?
While love should and does encompass everything that is pure and lovely and kind, etc, we often forget that there is another side to the coin – the ignored human element. There is a reason 1st Corinthians 13 specifically says: “Love is patient, …… it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” It is the hurting moments that require the patience, the calm head and the forgiveness of love.
Make no mistake my friends, love hurts – whether it is eros, agape or philos. If you think love does not hurt, then you are yet to understand it. I have often expounded on this priori truth:
Whatever we can think of as beautiful, is always preceded by something we consider unpleasant or ugly. As a rainbow follows the rain, so does a diamond emerge from a lump of coal. A flawless pearl is created from an uncomfortable grain of sand imbedded in mucus of the oyster; a new-born is delivered through labour pains. The blooming garden is cared for with dirty hands.