Bystanders Have A Role In Preventing Violence Against Women

rehtaeh-parsons-640x853Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons - the 17-year-old who died after a suicide attempt following a sexual assault – is still speaking up for victims. His life is a heartbreaking testimony to how strong a father’s love is for his daughter and how some people – even after being devastated by tragedy – commit their lives to helping others.

Canning is haunted by what happened to his daughter; she was sexually assaulted and tormented by photos her assailants took and circulated after the attack. He says one of the things that haunts him most about the events that transpired is his knowledge that there were several people around who could have stepped in to stop what happened to his daughter.

From the Ottowa Citizen:

“We know what happens now, when we do nothing,” Glen Canning said Tuesday. “It can drive a victim to suicide. We have to let victims know that people care, and of course the best way to do that is to try to prevent them from being victims in the first place.”

Canning has been an outspoken supporter of victims since his daughter’s death. He’s working with other advocates to spread the message that if you do nothing to stop something like this from happening – it’s tantamount to being guilty yourself.

“Violence against women is a men’s issue. We need men to start setting examples, we need men to start speaking out, we need men to start challenging the culture that goes around with rape and sexual assault of women, where people make jokes about it or make light of it,” he said.

He believes the more the message is out there – the less people will have an excuse to look away. I applaud him for not only fiercely supporting his daughter, but for continuing to be a voice for victims even after her tragic death.

(photo: Facebook)

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  • kay

    I once was inside a store when in the parking lot a woman got out of a car, with the man in the car yelling at her, cursing and telling her to get back into the car. A woman and her pre-teen daughter stopped as did I near the doorway.

    It became clear quickly that the woman was fine without anyone’s help-she calmly walked away from the angry screaming man into another store while calling someone on her cell phone. The other woman and I stared until the man’s car finally drove away. The daughter asked her mom “why are we standing here?”. The mom explained “when it looks like someone might need help it’s our job to make sure things are ok.” Which is a lesson we should all be teaching our kids.

    • Robotic Arms Dealer

      Until the psycho pulls out a gun, that is.

      Teaching our kids to observe and take note (suspect’s description, license plate) is fine. I would not recommend teaching your children to directly involve themselves in a heated domestic situation. Especially since your child is more important than a stranger.

    • Gangle

      I think the point that was being made was to not turn away and turn a blind eye because it is ‘none of your business’. Help does not always mean personally intervening ourselves. It may mean, observing the situation as you said. It may mean calling security or the police. It may mean offering shelter and a phone call to the person in need of assistance. But when you see a situation like that, turning away and ignoring it is always unacceptable.

    • brebay

      I agree. A parent’s first duty is to her child. She should have grabbed her kid, gone inside and called police. Domestic violence situations are the ones in which the most cops and the most bystanders are killed.

    • Gangle

      If you actually read what kay wrote, both herself, the woman and the womans daughter were already standing in the entrance of a shop. They did not try to approach a potentially dangerous character or even enter the car park. They observed the incident until it became clear that the man drove off, the woman was ok and assistance was not needed. I am pretty sure that if the situation looked like it was going to escalate beyond shouting and then driving off the police would have been called.

    • kay

      we were inside. reading comprehension, try it.

    • Robotic Arms Dealer

      @disqus_drzl1NrICW:disqus seems to like arguing with people that don’t disagree with him/her


    • kay

      That’s why we stood inside a store, phones in hand. Nowhere did I say she told her daughter she had to confront anyone. Just that it’s our job to watch and react in appropriate ways rather than walk away. I walked off to do my shopping once the car drove off, but I’m going to guess they talked about it more than one sentence.

    • pineapplegrasss

      I get what you’re saying, and honestly, I probably wouldn’t confront a dangerous or volatile man. But, I would be so proud of my son if he did step in and help a woman who was getting mugged/raped etc. I think too many people turn a blind eye and that’s exactly what this father is talking about. Nobody wants it to be their business, people don’t help people anymore. And maybe that is because of fear, at least that’s what would prevent me personally. But how much of it is apathy? We let our children grow up seeing so much violence and war and its just become ok? I’d rather my sons learn some lessons from superman or spiderman.

  • Alexandra

    “Violence against women is a men’s issue”.
    I respectfully disagree. For every man who violated her there were probably 30 – 40 or more WOMEN (and men) who circulated the photos (by forwarding them on). It’s an everyone issue.

    • Kelly

      I agree with you. I really hate the whole “Violence against women is a men’s issue.” No, Violence against women is a human being issue.

      The worst part of my sexual assault is that there was a woman in the room while I was being violated who knew exactly what was happening to me and laughed at me. That’s the part that bothers me most and I was raped repeatedly by multiple men after being drugged to the point where I couldn’t move but the fact that another woman stood there and watched and laughed… That haunts me more than anything.

    • Alexandra

      God that is so awful I am so sorry for that horrible experience. This is all too common, sometimes we see things where other girls have “set up” a girl to be assaulted, or girls say she’s a “slut” and deserves it.
      I hope you’ve found some way to begin to heal from that trauma *hugs*

    • Kelly

      Thank you. It was 15 years ago and I’ve mostly healed from it. The attack itself doesn’t bother me anymore but that woman… I still wonder how anyone could be that cold.

      And I agree it’s way too common. It seems like every time something awful happens to a woman, other women just pour out of the woodwork to insult her. I don’t understand why so many of us are so cruel to each other.

    • allisonjayne

      I think he is just trying to provide a counter-point to the fact that generally speaking, a lot of the VAW work is done by women’s groups by women. I think this is changing (white ribbon campaign)…I’m guessing from what he wrote that he’s trying to encourage men to get involved in VAW campaigns rather than seeing it as a ‘women’s issue’.

  • darras

    I agree with the article whole-heartedly! Although the stickler for detail in me would prefer it if it read “Bystanders have a role in preventing violence against anyone”. Sadly it isn’t only women who get abused and beaten :(

    • Kelly

      Good point.