Deborah Gillis is Catalyst’s President and CEO. This month she reflects on #WhoWillYouHelp, a recent public service campaign targeting violence against women.
I am proud to use July’s column to call attention to the groundbreaking #WhoWillYouHelp campaign initiated by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to challenge people to intervene when they see a woman being exploited or assaulted.
A shiver ran down my spine when I first saw this video.
One night when I was in university, I stupidly accepted a drink of swish (homemade alcohol) from some friends at a party. I thought I’d show the guys that I was not only cool, but tough enough to handle what they were drinking. Big mistake. A short time later my friends found one of the guys leading me to his car and intervened.
I learned all of this after the fact. I have no memory of anything that happened after I accepted that drink and would certainly not have been capable of saying “yes” or “no” to whatever that guy had planned for me that night.
Thank goodness I was with friends, and that they were conscientious enough to come looking for me. I don’t like to think about what might have happened if they hadn’t.
As my own experience and those of the women in the #WhoWillYouHelp video so amply demonstrate, anyone can be taken advantage of. Only a small percentage of men are sexual predators, yet a disturbingly high proportion of women report having experienced some form of violence. This is because those men who are predators tend to assault multiple women.
Many have heard the phrase, “All that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
The same is true of intolerance, injustice, and inequality. It’s not enough to say, “I would never hurt a woman.” Good men need to stand up to those who would.
As head of Catalyst, I talk a lot about how critical it is for leaders to take bold steps and intentional actions to drive meaningful change for women at work. This is just as crucial in other areas as well. When a woman is not safe in her home or at her neighborhood bar, her ability to achieve her full potential at work is also compromised.
It is simply unacceptable to treat violence against women as inevitable when in fact there are clear cultural, policy, and legislative solutions. No single program, policy, or law will eradicate violence overnight, but each and every one of us can do our part to stand up, speak out, and fight back today.