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forces of the hierarchy add to the power of men over women
Some men speak and act out racist stereotypes of women while they attack. Some men say openly that they know they can get away with it because of the privileges of their race in relation to the race of the woman. Still others use a racist advantage as a source of their power without acknowledging it.
Certainly, men are aware that women will
have to surmount racist as well as sexist stereotypes and practices if
they try to get help or try to get justice against their aggressor. As
NOIVM wrote in their submission to the parliamentary subcommittee
studying violence against women in February 1991, "Judges are
constantly making derogatory remarks about the women who have been
victimized, racist comments are commonplace." In the Northwest
territories, racial and sexist stereotypes cast upon Inuk women abound
in judiciary responses to rape. Puktuutit, an Inuit Women's Association,
to the same subcommittee reported that judges in the north speak of the
rape of women as though it was part of the culture and therefore not a
A Korean advocate for immigrant women in Vancouver told the Canadian Panel of a battered woman who had succeeded in getting the police during one abusive incident only to have the police allow her battering husband to translate for her since her English was limited.
Even the systemic Canadian racism aimed
at men works to endanger women of colour and aboriginal women. There is
enormous pressure on women to hide incidents of violence from the
authorities. As Glenda Simms (President of the Canadian Advisory Council
on the Status of Women, June 1991) has put it,
Race can, in fact, be a greater factor in incarceration than is sexist violence. Men of colour sometimes use the existing racism as an excuse to avoid facing the consequences of abusing women of colour. Women are called racist when they name and define attacking behaviour as sexist, when they report or confront abusive men, when they speak up in the community, and when they organise independently of men.
Most attacks reported to CASAC involve white men who have brutalised aboriginal women, women of colour and immigrant women as well as white women. Very few white women report attacks by aboriginal men or men of colour. While some of these figures can be attributed to the fact that men attack within their own families most often, it also seems obvious that men attack women held below them in the hierarchy of power in Canadian society. Women with less skin privilege are more vulnerable and less likely to be believed or protected.
44. Racism must be
acknowledged in law as a compounding effect of sexist attacks.
From their professional position these men have access to many potential victims. When Vancouver Rape Relief publicised the case of one medical professional, forty other women called to say they had been attacked by the same man.
The initial weapon is the extra respect and authority afforded them in our society by virtue of their job. Under the guise of professional interest some use questionnaires and interviews to gather personal her stories (finances, interpersonal relationships, physical and mental insecurities) with which to manipulate. Usually these men have enough control over their working environment to dispense with secretaries, receptionists, colleagues, etc, who otherwise be present as deterrents.
Some proceed by using the collected information to manipulate the female client, some proceed by pretending that their sexually predatory behaviour is part of their professional technique while some simply attack knowing that their membership in a professional association, their community standing and their information about the woman will make it easy to intimidate their victims and easy to ward off any social and legal consequences of the attack.
Women across the country have complained
to churches, Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons and other professional
associations with unsatisfactory results. Professional associations
which have contracts with government for self regulation, are still too
often guilty of protecting professional credentials rather than women.
In some provinces, complaints are now better received by regulating
bodies, but nowhere is there a preventative program in place. Even some
professional men who were criminally convicted of assaulting women are
still practising with the same power to attack. Only rarely have men
been stripped of professional privilege without criminal conviction
despite the association's responsibility to do so.
Associations must have higher standards to meet than the criminal
justice system. Men should not have access to professional credentials
when there is any hint of abuse because of the enormous privileges
bestowed on men with those credentials. Professionals must not be able
to evade accountability by moving from one province to another.
Male bosses, educators, immigration sponsors, students and workers use physical and sexual assault in ways that threaten and block women making life choices, regarding finances, employment and education and political organizing.
Some men demand sexual favours from women who have already earned academic, legal or economic/employment status. If a woman refuses his advances he threatens her with job loss, academic discrediting, and sometimes more violence.
Some of these men say openly that they attack women because they resent women's advances in professional, educational and employment settings. Women's groups deal with many calls from women attacked for breaking a "glass ceiling" or locating themselves in previously male preserves.
Some men attack women for their part in the growing resistance to sexist male violence and male domination. Virtually every town in the country has suffered horrendous campaigns of verbal and physical harassment against young women and their organisations. Women intervening on behalf of battered women have been beaten and shot.
Women on all major university and college campuses have been organizing for the rights of women. Often they were countered with direct and implied threats of sexual violence. Many of their efforts have been met with retaliation and backlash from both male students and the male administration. Certainly there is a dear and immediate relationship between how administrators and teachers talk about the struggle of women and the permission male students perceive they have from these authorities to treat the women around them with contempt.
There is also a clear and direct relationship between the progress of integration in any one situation and the treatment of women in that situation. The research on women in the corporate world indicates that when participation reaches fifteen or twenty percent, the resistance from men hardens. Once a certain threshold is crossed the struggle subsides and the harassment diminishes.
Some men in Canada specifically target those women trying to advance their economic and immigration position by accepting domestic work and farm work. Foreign domestics, by order of Canadian law, must reside in their employer's home which, prevents their escaping sexual attacks. Despite many calls for help by women's groups, we know of no criminal proceedings to effectively address the abuse of a domestic worker. Like farm workers, their position as unprotected workers and as potential immigrants leaves them with no practical legal recourse against their employers.
61. The federal
government has a responsibility to complete the process of integration
of women in every learning institution over which it has influence or
jurisdiction. Women must be present in significant numbers on staff and
faculty as well as throughout the student body. Women will not retreat
and quick integration could reduce male violence against women.