'Dear men': Partner of murdered Alberta woman challenges men to change
After girlfriend was killed by former common-law partner, Mike Cameron pens letter to the 'good men' among us
I need to have a frank conversation with you. I need you to help me solve a very large problem we are facing in society today.
I know, I know. You are not the problem. You are one of the good guys. This is a good thing. I recognize that there are more of us good men than bad. You do not perpetuate violence. You would never hit a woman. I understand that.
But let me ask you this: have you ever turned a blind eye to emotional or verbal abuse? How about controlling behaviour? Have you ever let a derogatory comment about a woman slide? A seemingly harmless joke or other objectification? Have you ever participated in locker-room talk?
On Oct. 2, 2015, I woke up a "good man" with my girlfriend Colleen Sillito beside me. Colleen woke up at 5 a.m. like she often did, ready to go teach yoga. She came around to my side of the bed and gave me a kiss goodbye. I mumbled, "Have fun at yoga," then rolled over and went back to sleep.
Those were the last four words I ever said to her. Colleen never made it to yoga. Instead she was ambushed by her ex-common-law partner. He shot and killed her in the driveway outside her home in Fort Saskatchewan, subsequently taking his own life.
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When I received the call from the police, I was still a good man. When the constable met me on the street by my office and uttered those three terrible words, "Colleen is dead," I was still a good man. The world had lost a magnificent human being. A mother, a friend, a partner, a yogi and a beautiful soul. And I was still a good man.
But I had a choice to make. I could choose to continue on being a good man — not causing the problem, nor contributing to the solution. Or, I could choose to become part of the solution in hopes that I could prevent this from happening to others. I chose the latter.
I need you to make the same choice.
It's often said that violence begets violence. I believe that violence begins with beliefs and attitudes. This is where you, the good men, come into play.
I need you to:
- Talk to your sons about what it means to be respectful
- Talk to your friends about equality
- Challenge your own attitudes and beliefs that may have been instilled in you from childhood
- Call out your buddies when they treat or talk about women as "lesser than"
If you've never had to think about this before, you're privileged. And the problem with privilege is that it is often invisible. It is easy to ignore things that don't directly impact your life. But It's time to take the blinders off.
As a salesman, I recognized early in my career that my customers bought on emotion, justified by logic. Certainly Paul Jacob, the man that killed Colleen, was a man who made a very permanent decision based on a very temporary emotion.
The challenge we run into as men is that it's generally not acceptable for us to explore our emotions. We are discouraged from feeling and even mocked when we show the slightest sign of emotion. If we aren't allowed to explore our emotions, then we can't expect to fully understand them or cope with them in a healthy way.
I need you to:
- Allow your sons to feel and express their emotions
- Allow the men in your life the space to safely explore their emotions without fear of being ridiculed
- Challenge those that mock or ridicule men for expressing emotion
- Feel more, feel more often
At one point, I asked Colleen what her talent was. She said her talent was making things beautiful. Certainly as an artist, a painter, a photographer and videographer she absolutely had a knack for finding the beauty in everything.
She turned the question around and asked me what my talent was. I hummed and hawed and said I wasn't sure. So I asked her what she thought. She replied, "Oh, that's easy. You have a much more useful talent." I asked her what that was and she stated. "Yeah, you make shit happen."
So there you had it. She made things beautiful, I made shit happen. Together we were going to make beautiful shit happen.
On the morning of Oct. 2, 2015, I vowed that I would continue to make beautiful shit happen in her honour.
Alberta has one of the highest rates of reported intimate-partner violence in the country. All while good men go about their day-to-day lives.
After Colleen was murdered, I started the Ignore No More charity run to raise awareness about domestic violence. I started talking to other men. This is my way of effecting change being an ally to women. What's yours?
Mike Cameron started the Ignore No More — Run for Respect charity run to raise awareness about domestic violence after his partner, Colleen Sillito, was murdered by her former common-law partner in 2015.