Telling the story of my life in my home - Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

We Need to Talk About Jian

When I mention the name I can see the beginning of an eyeroll forming on her face. She thinks a lecture is coming and at 15 the Intrepid Junior Blogger most likely feels she has been inundated with those over the course of her life on this planet. I detect the eyeroll and say: "Look, whatever you think, we need to talk about Jian."

The story has of course captivated and appalled the entire country over the last few days. The tale of a famous - now infamous - radio host and his fall from grace has appeared everywhere, a story that is sordid and sad and in almost every way frightening. The IJB has heard the story too, discussed it at school and read about it online. She thinks she has heard and seen enough, but I don't agree, because she and I need to talk about Jian, and about men who abuse women, and about being a young woman in this world.

I shared with the IJB a personal story, encounters from over twenty years ago in a city that seems far away and a time that seems to be from another life, and yet the city and that time felt far closer this past week than it has in a very, very long time. I won't share the details of the personal story here as they add little to the dialogue taking place across this country and the dozens of stories others have written except to say that like other women friends in Toronto in the late 80's and early 90's I have a tale to tell of such encounters. This week I have received messages from some of those women, ones I have not heard from in years (in one case decades) as we recounted to each other a time when we visited the same nightclubs, lived in the same neighbourhoods and encountered the same man. We moved on from that time and that place, leaving Toronto for the most part, having children and building careers, but the story that broke these past few days awoke memories long tucked away.

But those memories are not what worry me now. What worries me now is that I have in my house a young woman who will soon tackle the world on her own, and I recall all too well being her age and thinking you had the tiger by the tail, right until the tiger showed it's flexibility and turned on you, clutching you in it's ferocious teeth. I recall going out into the world and not understanding men who enjoy degrading and beating women, and I remember the slow process of learning this, of learning to trust my instincts and listen to the inner voice. And I learned compassion for other women who were victimized by those they had begun to trust, because that fragile trust is easily destroyed just as are young bodies, minds and hearts.

This week I read so many troubling things, perhaps none more so than some who claimed that their daughters were too strong to be victims, far too tough to ever be abused or assaulted and it stung me to the core, because that attitude meant that those who were victims were clearly not strong or tough enough. It was the new version of "assault doesn't happen to nice girls", a "strong girls aren't the victims of assault" mentality that hurts us all because sexual and physical assault can and does happen to all girls and women, regardless of their strength and character.

The IJB is strong and tough, but I am not naive enough to believe she is immune from those who prey on women. I know that young women can be awed by fame and power and influence and can be destroyed by those they idolize and believe in when their trust is abused. I remember what is was like to be young and just naive enough to think I knew everything when in reality I knew so very little.

So this week in my house we talked about Jian. It wasn't an easy discussion in many ways, but if you are the parent of a young woman - or a young man - I think it is a vital conversation to have. If this week showed me anything it was that far from filing away these stories and, in some cases, memories, we need to share them with our children, because it is perhaps the silence over these decades that troubles me the most. Maybe if we talked about these experiences and stories - if we had REALLY talked about it sooner - there would be far fewer women coming forward today because they would not have been victims.

This week I told my daughter we needed to talk about Jian. And so we did, because I hope in some small way it may help her to navigate this world armed with new knowledge and a clearer picture of some harsh realities she may encounter. I don't know if it will protect her, although I hope it will. Perhaps the only good thing to come from this entire experience is those conversations and the opening of a dialogue that we so desperately need to have. And that is why we need to talk about Jian.

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