We can only guess about her life. Perhaps her boyfriend hits her sometimes when she’s being irrational and needy and “womanly” in his words, doesn’t mean it, regrets it later after he’s had some TV time to cool down, swears he doesn’t mean it, but she was being so irrational and clingy and womanly at the time, just a walking stereotype of an over-attached insecure woman, that he couldn’t help himself. This episode happens again and again, and every time it happens the more irrational and needy and insecure she feels, the more crazy and small and helpless she feels. Her friends are worried about her; her parents are worried about her. They sent her here.
This hypothetical young woman, standing outside the women’s centre, the more she thinks about it the deeper her nails dig into her palm in a feeling that’s painful and good.
The young woman on campus is one of many who suffer from violence against women (VAW). Others are victim to emotional, financial, psychological and spiritual abuse, intimate partner violence, child abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, stalking, harassment, and femicide.
The young woman has seen posters around campus against VAW, but she’s never really made the connection between them and her life. She was there at the announcement for Build Act Change, a new campus program to combat violence against women, a program that will help women like her at UTSC.
Build Act Change is a partnership between the campus women’s centre and the Scarborough Women’s Centre. The program aims to stop violence against women through events promoting awareness, and ensuring that women experiencing violence have access to supports and resources. It’s a program that UTSC dean of student affairs Desmond Pouyat and MP Corleniu Chisu speak in support of passionately, and that our government pledged $200,000 towards, and that has dozens of employees and volunteers working tirelessly planning events from December to March.
For example, “What Makes a Man” by Build Act Change was last Wednesday, a conference about the pressures of masculinity that contribute to violence against women.
This program will ensure big changes on campus, for the women frightened by the periodic announcements of violence at UTSC, for women who have to be afraid of date rape and domestic abuse and an all-encompassing societal minimization of their personhood and efforts, and for the men who stand by them.
The hypothetical young woman, jittery to her very core in the cold hallway on the second floor of the student centre, unsure of whether to step forward and change the direction of her life right around, is not alone.