Remembering The Montreal Massacre

Today marked the 21st anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a man named Marc Lepine walked onto the campus of École Polytechnique in Montreal. He wasn’t a student there, though not for a lack of trying. In fact, he was on a special mission that day. He was going to exact revenge on those who he felt were responsible for his rejection. So he walked into a classroom. He pulled out his loaded rifle. His formula was simple. Men were told to leave. Women were told to stay. Then he fired. This began his rampage on campus. At the end of the day he had murdered 15 feminists’, including one he stabbed to death in a classroom while other students watched in shock and horror.

When violent events spill out before our eyes the natural reaction is one of shock. When the shock wears off, we begin to ask questions. How could this happen? There’s always this sense that our community’ should be safe from this. So many assumptions come with our community’. The first assumption being that our community’ couldn’t be producing these individuals. The distancing we all generally do towards those who kill and rape.

The disservice we do to our community is in the search for who is to blame. In every tragedy the sequence of events plays out and in the end someone is fired or ruled negligent or incompetent. This process is highly political and inherently flawed because searching for individual blame is by nature deflective of the greater responsibility. Once the public is satisfied that something was done we move on and begin the process of putting the past behind us.

So let’s begin the discussion at the point where the media and most of society are entirely too content to end. The beginning of the responsibility, and blame, that includes us.

In my research of Lepine it was no surprise to learn that he had been subject to brutal physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father. Nor was it shocking that his view of women as servile and second-class citizens had all been assimilations from his father as well. Lepine’s mother had her own job and pursued higher education, but the influence of his father was so pervasive that not even her positive model could derail his contempt.

Lepine, the adult, railed about the accumulated missed opportunities in his life, denied him by women he labeled the feminists.’ These were women who he felt didn’t know their rightful place in society. He couldn’t hold a steady job. He couldn’t pay his rent. He couldn’t be the man he was expected to be. So someone was to blame.

The Montreal Massacre shares some basic similarities to other school shootings, such as Columbine, and most recently in Virginia Tech. These men come from an ever growing group of alienated young men who live in a world that judges them in relation to their ability to control the forces around them. When faced with a world that is completely out of their control, they resort to the most extreme measures to regain control, to find some sense of maleness’.

We are taught, as men, that control is the issue. We need to control our anger, our pride, and our emotions. It is as if we are ticking bombs, with the true successes being those that never go off, or that go off in the most socially acceptable of ways.

This is the game we have been taught to play. There are no other alternatives presented. I think of my life, and my ability to retain control. To be perfectly honest, I feel like a failure in this sense. I emote, I have lost control many times, and it has cost me dearly in the past. I have taken action in exaggerated, seemingly unrelated ways in an attempt to reestablish it.

So what are our options? Are we put here on Earth to play out the game of control? If this is what our lives come to then some can say that there is very little room in society for the abuse survivor. You see, control was taken from us. We struggle to take it back in this subconscious battle. It plays out in all the seemingly benign interactions throughout our day. It finds a home in the failed relationship here, in the arrest there, or the hostile act of road rage elsewhere.

The natural role of women in society gives them a perspective we, as men, can learn from. You see, it is still our unspoken role to retain control, but we can change that role. Women exist in this world often from a position of vulnerability. They are not groomed from childhood that being the master of their domain is a necessity. It is an option, and one that they can quite comfortably not take. Their ability to access vulnerability, through the availability of a much wider range of socially acceptable emotions, provides an inherent power to master setbacks.

Our growing boys are regressing by virtue of that narrow tunnel of emotional expression they are expected to use to deal with their setbacks. One way or another, the boy will struggle to be master of his domain. Too often, it can lead to violence, rape, murder, or suicide.

So, here’s what all this means to me. First, men need more resources; especially outreach resources because we know that men are less likely to seek help. Second, we men need role models, badly. Where are the male survivors trailblazing a path to follow? I see many women revealing their abuse, and even female celebrities mustering their courage to come out. The field of support is there for women because they have fought to put their resources in place.

I can only think of a few atrocities that were so blatantly differentiating as the Montreal Massacre. Our society has failed many men, and maybe it failed Marc Lepine. He made the choice to murder women, in such a direct and twisted way. The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that we failed the women who died and their families who had to live on.

I don’t think I can, in good conscience, call this game of control’ a game after all. Control is simply an illusion we feel we need to exist. It creates a false sense of desperation whose consequences are all too real in the hands of men like Lepine. Our success in life is contingent upon our ability to be vulnerable and recognize it as our strength, our strength as boys and men. Only then can we truly call an event like the Montreal Massacre an aberration, as opposed to an inevitability.

Lest We Forget: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.
Advertisements

Home Schooling and Child Abuse. Is There A Link?

I was up late last night trolling the internet for abuse in the news. I noticed a disturbing number of articles in the last few days involving child abuse cases with home schooled children. It peaked my curiosity and so I started looking around for more information on the topic of home schooling and links made previously to reported cases of child trauma. What I came up with was both interesting and thought-provoking. Highlighted were arguments of parental entitlement to regulate their children’s learning as well as a noticeable lack of community concern for the hidden lives of some such children, until after the abuse has already occurred. It made me think about my own education growing up, abuse and parental entitlement of children.

According to Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., author of Facts on Home schooling, there were an estimated 1,700,000 to 2,100,000 children (grades K-12) home educated during 2002-2003 in the United States. Home schooling appears to still be the fastest-growing form of education in this country.

Like many statistics, these numbers are based on those children that are actually reported to the government, which got me thinking about all of those children that go unreported and possible abuse cases that are easily missed.  In reality, it’s hard to know how widespread abuse might be with children who are home schooled because the government doesn’t have a competent system in place to keep track of them.

A Dark Side to Home Schooling
Parents Kept Social Workers Out Until Police Called In

I am not a product of home schooling. Like many, I grew up in a system that was federally regulated. If I didn’t show up to school for the day, you can be sure that our house got a call from the principles office to see what was going on and why I was not there. I was accounted for. This is not the case for children who are home schooled. There are no attendance lists, no phone calls home and no uniform monitoring of their safety. A perfect environment for abuse to flourish undetected.

Now, I can hear the naysayers commenting already. They may argue that home schooling and child abuse are two separate issues. While there are children who are abused by home schooling parents, children are not abused because they are home schooled. Agreed. However, where there are no rules or regulations, there is a greater risk for abuse of children to go undetected.

NJ Dad Accused of Raping 5 Daughters

How do we as a nation protect parents’ rights to raise their own children while the safety of these same children in the home? In reality, home schooling will never be taken off the table and admittedly; there are countless children who are home schooled who flourish in such environments. However, I believe that we need stricter guidelines for home schooling practices.

Children who are schooled outside of the home have a better chance of someone, whether a friend, teacher or community member recognizing signs of abuse and reporting it to the authorities.  A child beaten and abused at home, does not have the same advantage.

Like it or not, child abusers who home school are less likely to be caught than parents who send their children to regular school. Home schooling can be an isolating environment, where violence can go unnoticed from the public eye. A bruise or fearful demeanor seen by a teacher, who are mandated to report, can easily be hidden when a child is kept at home. Access for children to resources that would educate them on abuse, it’s prevalence and assist them in finding help would remain out of reach. Day to day monitoring of children and their overall welfare is put in the sole hands of caregivers who if they so choose to abuse, have full access to children, without ever being questioned. One case I read established that a girl who was home schooled by her parents, was later found murdered a full year after her murder because authorities didn’t even know she’d been missing. If this same child had been missing a year from a regulated system, her disappearance and murder may have been  avoided by early detected. The system is not perfect by any means, but there are advantages to regulated schools that a home schooled environment lacks when it comes to keeping our children safer.

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz Charged with Murder of Their Daughter

There is no lock tight panacea to this issue, however we as a community should have a greater voice in how our education is regulated. A proposal for regulation could be to mandate and include home schooled children’s physical exams for review and that children be visited by social service representatives throughout the year to evaluate their physical and mental wellness. I also think that parents who are homeschooling should have more stringent guidelines if they choose to be their children’s sole educator.

Home schooling is currently regulated by individual states and many of these have a limited mandate for parent credentials. This in itself is perplexing to me, as I cannot think of another such important profession that would allow students to be taught without the proper training to do so. The question as to why this is acceptable for our nation’s children remains unanswered.

Additionally, I believe that parents choosing to home school their children should have required training in the areas of  child behavior, discipline, safety and development and resources in their community that they may not otherwise know of. Perhaps, a step in the right direction in an effort to protect parental as well as children’s rights. What’s your take on the issue?

Addendum:

We have received quite a bit of feedback on this blog, much of which we couldn’t post because it involved inappropriate personal attacks and insults.  This blog was not intended to enter the debate of home schooling vs. standard schooling.  It seems this debate is very polarized and involves some extreme reactions that lead many commenters to ignore the issue of this blog entirely for their own agenda.  We are now aware that there is a big debate in the UK on this very subject, but please understand our blog has absolutely nothing to do with that debate.

We ask that you approach with an open mind and if you are too intimately attached to the issue of home schooling please address your comments to the appropriate forum.

So here’s the take home message.  We are not against home schooling.  It’s quite popular in this country and very successful on a number of counts.  However, with no regulations, no safeguards (however flawed) an abuser can, and will, take their children out of regular school and be under very little scrutiny doing it.  We know because our organization works with the victims every day.  So we applaud those home school parents who take their role seriously and make sure their kids are integrated into society.  But to say that there should be no regulation, no safeguards, no checks what so ever is an environment that those who choose to abuse can thrive in.  Like it or not, we parent our children, but we don’t own them.  A child has every right to be protected by their communities, from their communities, by their parents, and from their parents.

A number of comments questioned why we would want to change the existing system to ‘save a few kids’.  In our organization, every child counts, and we are committed to saving every one.  The statistics tell us that 1 out of every 4 girls, and 1 in every 10 boys,  are sexually abused before the age of 16.  So that’s more than just ‘a few kids’.

Thank you for all the productive comments and lively discussion.

Chris & Ophelia de Serres

WSO