Over the course of my career as a police officer, I witnessed countless instances of violence against women. From harassment, to stalking, to assault, to murder, women are too often the innocent victims of brutality, usually at the hands of intimate partners or family members.
Even though I have recently retired, I continue to work with different groups to carry on the effort of eliminating violence against women. Recently I was at an event to celebrate International Women’s Day and something struck me: There were virtually no men in attendance. I began to think about other groups I work with, and again, there are few men present for the discussion.
The reality is about 75 per cent of the time, men are the offenders, yet hardly any men participate at the grassroots level to solve the problem. While many men work at the government level in policy development, law reform and law enforcement, there are few that participate in community-based domestic violence groups.
We, as men, must be leaders in changing attitudes towards women. Most men I speak to are unequivocally opposed to violence against women. We need those men at the table. We need those men to demand zero tolerance in their social networks. We need those men to stand up, speak out and be a part of the change.
Violence against women is not a woman’s problem. It is a man’s problem that can only be solved with equal participation and support from both genders. We need more men to declare themselves as feminists – defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.
A World Health Organization Report stated that violence against women is not only a worldwide public health problem, but a violation of women’s basic human rights. On a global scale, violence against women is a systemic issue that transcends economic status, cultural values and religious beliefs.
While Canada has written a formal intolerance of gender-based violence directly into the Charter and Criminal Code, the problem persists. It is within the gap between our laws and our actual rates of domestic abuse where our work, as Canadian men, begins.
Irish Statesman Edmund Burke said “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” As men, we need to stand up and be visible in our opposition to gender-based violence and discrimination. We must raise our sons to treat women with dignity and respect, and we must instill in our daughters not only the expectation of basic human rights, but the understanding that their destiny will not be limited by their gender.
To all of the women and men working towards a world free of gender-based violence, thank you. It is my hope that your work inspires others to stand up against violence against women.
Jim Cessford is the retired chief of the Delta Police Department. He spent more than 40 years in law enforcement.