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Mourning Hopelessness

On Valentine's day a march was held in the downtown east-side of Vancouver as part of V-Day activities. The march was a response to ongoing (and increasing) violence against women in Canada. Here in Vancouver the focus was particularly upon violence against women in the sex trade. In recent years as many as 70+ female prostitutes have “disappeared”. The bodies of many of the women have been found, the whereabouts of many others remains unknown.
As usual for the police force of a large city (hell, probably any police force) the Vancouver Police have continually downplayed the issue of violence against women and the media has been happy to tow their line.
And so people march. Not many, but some do. On Valentine's Day a small group gathered, marched, held signs, and gave speeches in front of the police station.
Not long after the march a female prostitute was picked up by an unknown john. She was raped and tortured – and told that what was being done to her was being done in response to the march.
Then, last Thursday, a large amount of blood was found in an alley between Hastings and Pender and the word on the street is that another prostitute has been “cut-up” and killed.
The Vancouver Police Department has refused to respond to calls made by Community agencies. It has refused to comment on these events and the media has also deemed these events not newsworthy.
It seems Chomsky's critique of worthy and unworthy victims applies to our own backyards.
I wonder how much press there would have been if large pools of blood had been discovered around a dumpster on UBC's campus. I wonder how the media would have responded if a female professor was “cut-up” in response to the march. I wonder how the media would respond if female students were regularly disappearing from UBC. And I wonder how it would respond if men, not women, were the victims.
I was rereading excerpts from The Story of Jane Doe: A book about Rape (required reading for pretty much anybody but especially for people from Ontario and the GTA) and was once again overwhelmed by the magnitude of violence against women in our society.
As I was looking at the statistics on the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter website ( I was struck by this statement (which I fully affirm):
Virtually all men want to be treated by women as if they were in the category of protecting us from those “other” men. They expect us to begin with an assumption of trust. In a media interview last year, Lee Lakeman from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter stated, “Every man is a potential rapist.” There were several letters to the editor in response – all from men – disclaiming their responsibility for rape, insisting that they can be trusted, calling for men's liberation and declaring Lee a “menace to her own cause.” Whenever this statement has been made, the response has been similar.
So what is a man to do?
First of all, men need to stop dictating the terms and allow women who are involved in this area to have their voice. Men need to listen. Then men need to affirm what is said. Men need to submit to women's voices in this area – even when they find those voices hard to listen to. Even when they don't find themselves in agreement they need to submit. It is from a position of listening, of respecting, of coming alongside of, and of affirming, that men are to begin to think about the actions they are to take. Basically I'm saying that I don't give a shit if men find their “manhood” offended by female voices in this area. Shut the fuck up and do what you're told.
But really, in light of the magnitude of this issue, I can't really say I have a lot of hope. I'd like to but there is not much out there to give me hope. I don't have much faith in the media, or the police, or the broader society. Sadly, I also don't have much faith in the church as it exists currently. And so, I think we need to engage in genuine mourning. Mourning is something we can do.
Yet I do hold out hope in what God can do. As always I find myself going back to calling the church back to being the church – not the perversion that it has come to be. Who knows what could happen if the church once again became the community it is called to be? Of course, until that happens, it seems to me that this situation is fundamentally hopeless.

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  1. Dan, I mourn with you. I feel my heart-breaking every time I think about this…it all seems so overwhelming – it is such a dark cloud over all of us. And so many people are hurting. I think you are right that men do have a role to play here, one of listening. I wonder what God will do about all of this?