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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

Posts tagged open letter

When one of my best friends told me she had acquired a job, I was overjoyed. An art gallery. She had been through a lot over the last year, and this was a job where the hours were reasonable for her and the tasks at hand were not only doable, but something she was interested in and knew about. “Which art gallery?” I asked her. When she told me, I bit my tongue and continued to celebrate with her, hoping that if I didn’t voice my concerns out loud, that maybe they would be proven unfounded. After all, she knew I had had some significantly creepy experiences with her new boss in the past, and she made the decision to work there, even knowing that he had the capacity to be a creep. Now, I wish I had shared my concerns.

The Boss is a prominent member of our community: a business owner, a councilman. I voted for him a few years ago because I saw him around the downtown often, supporting local businesses, including businesses owned or managed by intelligent, entrepreneurial young women. I heard a few stories about his strong personality and his willingness to pick young, intelligent, pretty women to mentor…but these reports were always given in hushed voices, with a hint of reservation. I met him briefly a few times while visiting a friend who was working at one of the local downtown shops and I immediately noticed that he was the kind of man who undressed me with his eyes when he looked at me. But I had become a bit used to letting that kind of behaviour fly since moving to this Small Town.

When I became heavily involved with a local charity that had a history of inconsistent support from the Municipality, I made it my goal to help bridge the relationship between the organization and the Town. So, I reached out to The Boss and asked if he wanted to meet for coffee, hoping to gain some perspective from someone at the Municipality about what kind of information the Town would like from the organization. This happened a few times, and each time he treated the meeting as a date. He commented on my appearance, made sure he always got his hug, and made a point of touching me at any opportunity. He also made a point of telling me how beautiful and intelligent I am and joked about dating me, kissing me, even having sex with me. Although he was joking, the way he joked clearly communicated that if I were to accept any of these offers, he would jump at the opportunity. Regardless of the fact that I am younger than his children or that we are both married.

I am ashamed to say that, in hope of minimizing conflict and forging a better relationship between the organization and the Town, I laughed off The Boss’ behaviour and managed any major physical risk by only meeting with him in public places. I did not communicate to him that he was making me feel uncomfortable, because he held the power to fund an important charity program or not. He held the power to ruin my reputation among professionals in the community. He held the power to make me feel like I wanted to throw up when I saw him on the street. Eventually, after he got mad at me for meeting with a friend instead of carrying out plans he and I had, I stopped engaging with him unless it was necessary, at which time I was polite and distant.

When my friend started to tell me about some of the comments The Boss would make to her at work, I encouraged her to stand up for herself, which she did. She was clear and communicative. When she decided to leave this job, as it was affecting her emotionally, I told her I would support her in sharing what happened to her, and I would share my experience to support her voice. So that’s what I’m doing.

One evening, when I was especially upset after hearing this friend and several other friends talk about sexual harassment they were experiencing, I posted a status on Facebook that was something like “I’m hearing a lot of stories about old men in our community who are sexually harassing young women and if you want to talk about it or if you want to know which names I keep hearing so that you can keep yourself safe, send me a private message.”

Over and over, smart, pretty, young women messaged me with his name.

I’m not speaking out because I think this person is a bad person. On the contrary, I believe he can do better. Until more women speak out about the ways men treat us that make us feel unsafe, it’s not going to change. As my friend says so clearly in her blog post on the topic,

“I want so desperately for him to admit to his abuse, to take responsibility, and apologize for it. It destroys me to think he will go on to subject other women to the same abuse. I don’t want to be just another casualty in this systemic abuse of power.”

It’s important that this doesn’t keep happening. I would like to see the man who has behaved his way acknowledge what’s he has done and that it is wrong. I would like to see him do better, and to truly treat women with respect and authenticity rather than objectifying us for his own amusement and pleasure. I would like a real apology- not just for myself, but for all of the women he has treated this way and for our community, who he has committed responsibility to.

 

 

 

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tbtncrowd
Photo by Walton St. Photography.

Mission: Take Back the Night is a community based event to protest the fear that women and trans people have walking the streets at night safely. Take Back the Night is also a grassroots event that honours the experiences of survivors of sexual violence, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and survivors of state violence such as police brutality, racism, ableism, sexism, and other forms of institutionalized violence. The goal of the event is to offer Northumberland County residents an opportunity to stand together in solidarity against institutionalized violence and oppression as a community. The event is free to attend.

When: Thursday, October 19 at 7PM
Where: Memorial Park, Port Hope (the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Wendat peoples)

People of all genders are welcome at this event, which centres the women and femmes who disproportionately experience gender-based and sexual violence. Men, we invite you to walk in solidarity with us.

Peer support will be available if you find yourself in need.

There is an after-dark walk component to our event, so you may wish to bring along a flashlight or be sure to have your cellphone charged to use the flashlight app. Choose your footwear accordingly.

Our itinerary:
Meet at 7PM at Port Hope’s Memorial Park to gather, get direction, and hear a few songs and stories.

Then we walk together, on a short, accessible route through Port Hope’s downtown, through a quieter, more dimly lit stretch along Lent’s Lane and back to the park via Dorset and Queen Streets.

We’ll close out with a few more performances back in the park, and then all are welcome to join us for a low-key debrief with snacks and music at Green Wood Coalition’s space on Ontario Street.

thewalk
Photo by Walton St. Photography.

Theme: “We are Not Unfounded

Earlier this year, the The Globe and Mail released an investigative report into police rates of designating sexual assault reports “unfounded,” meaning officers don’t believe a sexual assault took place. Across Canada, the rate is nearly 20%. In Port Hope, between 2010 and 2015, 45% of reports of sexual assault were labelled unfounded.
Because we believe survivors, Port Hope’s 2017 Take Back the Night event will have the theme “We are not unfounded.” Join us on Thursday, Oct 19 at 7PM.


Press Releases:
Press Release in Northumberland News here.
Press Release in Port Hope Now here.

Official Photos From Event: 
Official photo album by Walton St. Photography here.

Articles About the Event:
“A Cobourg woman speaks out on workplace sexual harassment that left her terrified” here.
“Port Hope’s Take Back the Night walk resonates in an era of #MeToo” here.

Contributing Artists:
Read Jenni Burke’s blog post about Take Back the Night here.
Read Cassie Jeans’ poem “For my Sacred Sisters who are Healing from Shame” here.
Listen to/watch Winona Wilde play her song “Chick Singer” here.

Sponsors:

Racine Financial
Long and McQuade
Emulate Global Printing and Finishing
Green Wood Coalition
Walton St. Photography
Port Hope Public Library
Royal Ribbons

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Display to promote the event at Port Hope Public Library. Photo by Gareth Vieira.

Performers:

eileayisha.jpgEilé and Ayisha Hannigan

jane.jpg
Jane Storie

natalie
Natalie Galloway

 

brooke.jpg
Brooke Sterzenegger

kim
Kim Doolittle

devients
Deviants and The Odd Man Out

hailiah
Hailiah

TBTN Planning Committee:
tbtncommittee

“We’re a diverse collective, and together we share a common interest in making Port Hope a safer and more supportive community for all of us.”

Gareth Vieira
Jenni Burke
Ashley Bouman
Avril Ging Ewing
Lyss England
Jeff Caine
Meghan Sheffield
Ariel Reilly
Marcela Calderon Donefer