December 16, 2014
When Montreal Gazette reporter Sue Montgomery started a conversation on #BeenRapedNeverReported,revealing her own experience of sexual abuse, she never expected to initiate a movement that would reach 8 million persons within a week. Women from across Canada, but also from around the world, talked about their experience of sexual violence – many of them for the first time. Their testimonies on Twitter highlight the need for social change and social justice, both leading to gender equality and respect. Sue Montgomery will MC our annual Gala Cocktail in Montreal, on February 12, 2015, at Cirque du Soleil headquarters. We couldn’t think of a better person to be part of our event and share some of her insights into the phenomenon of sexual violence and the need for human rights education. Sue also agreed to answer some of our questions.
Equitas: Do you see a connection between Equitas and #BeenRapedNeverReported?
Sue Montgomery: I think there is. I like the fact that Equitas has partners in different countries and is across Canada. Whether in school programs or summer camps, through its Play it Fair, Speaking Rights and Young Women Young Leaders programs, Equitas is reinforcing fundamental values of equality and respect. I also like the fact that Equitas is doing amazing work with relatively few funds. Besides, I like the idea of being MC of the Equitas Gala because it’s always a fun night!
I think what’s happening with #BeenRapedNeverReported is this: we all recognize that women have rights but my view is that the feminist movement has been asleep for a while. Now we’ve found our voice. We’re not going to stop asking for change until we can effectively see a change in terms of violence against women. This is a strong cause for Equitas, especially when it comes to teaching people about women’s rights, around the globe.
This #BeenRapedNeverReported movement has really gone global too. I had discussions with women in India, Pakistan, Kenya… all around the world. Thanks to the internet, a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise have a way to, can now join the movement and become empowered.
E.: How do you see the role of education in addressing violence against women?
S.M.: Now that a lot of people are talking about sexual violence, that we recognize that there is a problem – basically we’re facing an epidemic of violence against women globally – the next step is to address what we’re going to do about it. For me, there’s no doubt that educating has to be the first thing we do. I think we should be starting from a very young age. We should talk about what constitutes a consensual and respectful relationship. I mean, when the age is appropriate, of course. A lot of kids are learning about sex on the internet and sometime it’s very unrealistic and very violent. Often, they don’t have anyone telling them what constitutes a healthy relationship. Education is then the first step to move toward a lasting social change.
It goes without saying that men have to be part of this too. Violence against women is not just a woman’s problem, it’s a man’s problem. Men have to be the ones to step up. But I don’t want it to be “us against them” or anything like that. It has to be a cooperative thing. When I look at the younger generation, I see a willingness for men to participate and bring about change. That’s the kind of commitment we need. I think there are a lot more men like that in this generation than perhaps in my own generation.
E.: Can the Equitas Gala Cocktail help spread the message a little bit?
S.M.: For sure. I think that with a movement like #BeenRapedNeverReported, the more things we have like that, the more people will recognize that educating people about their rights, teaching children about inclusiveness and cooperation and so on is really what we need to do. You have to start young to bring about this shift at a very young age to get people away from the really entrenched roles that people seem to have fallen into. This sort of behaviour or pattern is very destructive for everyone and for our society.
I’m convinced that a lot of this violence against women is also the cause of many mental illnesses, both for men and women, because I’m sure men do not enjoy being violent: there are reasons why they are acting out like that. So I think when we start addressing that we’ll see a healing in society in many different ways.
Finally, I think Equitas is part of that mission, especially with their Play it Fair program. I think that’s something people can really identify with. Whether we’re in Canada or abroad, we all want the same thing, the same rights, the same respect. And that’s exactly what #BeenRapedNeverReported is all about: respect. You don’t treat people in a violent way.