Paula Sheppard Thibeau, executive director of the Corner Brook Status of Women Council became aware of the words “------ is a slut” painted on a fence in the area of St. Marks Avenue through a Facebook posting on Sunday.
Sheppard Thibeau said it was her first knowledge of it, but has since learned through comments the post has received that it had been there for a couple of months.
“I was saddened and then a little angry that we’re still using this type of public shaming for individuals and that there really is no place for it in this community,” Sheppard Thibeau said Monday.
After seeing the post, she went to the address and found the building on the other side of the fence was vacant. So she purchased some paint and called some friends.
Armed with paint rollers, about eight women, with some male support, came together in the late afternoon to show the targeted girl — and all women — that they are willing to stand up for them and won’t accept such displays of disrespect.
“We were staying on the outside, we weren’t going on the inside of the property, and we were simply trying to improve a situation rather than vandalize in any way,” said Sheppard Thibeau.
In a little over an hour they turned the fence into a “White Wall of Peace.”
The name came from 11-year-old Emma Barrett, one of the people who helped with the painting.
Emma’s mom, Irene Barrett, a local feminist psychologist, told The Western Star in a Facebook message that it was important for her that her daughter learns that the feminist community in her town will address negative discourse.
“I hope she will remember these moments and it will give her strength if she ever faces something similar in her future.”
As a therapist, Barrett works with adolescents and, said it was important for her to take a political stance against oppression.
“To not only challenge gender violence, but to also let those who I support know that I will address these matters head on.”
The fence painting took place as the Corner Brook Status of Women Council prepares for its annual Take Back the Night Walk on Friday.
Seeing the vulgar graffiti shows Sheppard Thibeau that negative attitudes do still prevail in society and there is more work to do.
“Our hope is that by counteracting it with something positive we show that it doesn’t need to be tolerated in our community.
“And we hope that the next time someone else steps up, and that we create a community of caring.”
But in case they’re needed again, Sheppard Thibeau said the paint rollers are ready to go.