Wednesday, December 06, 2006

December 6th

On December 6, 1989, classes were in session at the École Polytechnique at the University of Montreal, located on the north slope of Mont Royal. It was the largest engineering school in Canada, with about 5,000 students enrolled at that time. A six-story yellow brick building housed the classrooms and offices.

To the students it seemed like a normal day, if cold and drizzly. It was the last day of the session, with final presentations going on in different places. About 60 students sat in classroom C-230, on the building's second floor. It was just after 5 p.m., and the sky had darkened. For some, that made it easier to focus on the lecture offered by two students about the mechanics of heat transfer.

Soon after, for 45 minutes, an enraged gunman roamed the corridors and killed 14 women. Marc Lepine, 25, separated the men from the women and before opening fire on the classroom of female engineering students he screamed, "I hate feminists." Almost immediately, the Montreal Massacre became a galvanizing moment in which mourning turned into outrage about all violence against women.

The murdered women were:

Genevieve Bergeron, aged 21;

Helene Colgan, 23;

Nathalie Croteau, 23;

Barbara Daigneault, 22;

Anne-Marie Edward, 21;

Maud Haviernick, 29;

Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31;

Maryse Leclair, 23;

Anne St.-Arneault, 23;

Michele Richard, 21;

Maryse Laganiere, 25;

Anne-Marie Lemay, 22;

Sonia Pelletier, 28; and

Annie Turcotte, aged 21.

These women deserve to be remembered and the horrible act that took their lives NEEDS to be remembered. Violence against women did not start or stop with the Montreal Massacre:
  • 30% of women currently or previously married have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence at the hands of a marital partner (Fitzgerald 1999).
  • 21% of women abused by a marital partner were assaulted during pregnancy; 40% of these women stated that the abuse began during their pregnancy (Fitzgerald 1999).
  • In a recent survey, 12% of women aged 18 to 24 reported at least one incident of violence by a marital partner in a one-year period - 4 times the national average (Fitzgerald 1999).
  • One-third of women who were assaulted by a partner feared for their lives at some point during the abusive relationship (Rodgers 1994).
  • 45% of women who experienced spousal violence indicated that they had suffered injury, and 43% of these women required medical attention (Rodgers 1994).
  • Women married to or living with heavy drinkers, are 5 times more likely to be assaulted by their partners than are women who live with non-drinkers (Fitzgerald 1999).
  • Women constitute 98% of spousal violence victims of kidnapping/hostage-taking and sexual assault (Fitzgerald 1999).
These are just the numbers about spousal abuse, many women are also assaulted by men they do not know.

Today I urge you to think about all of the victims of violence against women in the world and to ask yourself what you can do to make a difference. Men and boys are asked on this day and all days of the year to wear a white ribbon. Wearing a white ribbon is a personal pledge to never commit, condone nor remain silent about violence against women.

Fitzgerald, Robin. Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile. Statistics Canada, 1999.

Rodgers, Karen. "Wife Assault: The Findings of a National Survey." Juristat 14, 9. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada, 1994.


Yan Sniim said...

Thank you very much for this really tragic and insightful post.. I'm really sorry for these ladies. I really think that violence against women suck!

Calavera said...

Such a moving post.

That such people exist in this world who could do something like that... doesn't bear thinking about. *shudders*