Say no to violence

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day...

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Right-to-life Awareness. White Ribbon. فارسی: روبان سفید، نماد بین‌المللی آگاهی و توجه به مبارزه با خشونت علیه زنان است. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The man you fell in love with, or thought you had, has got you cornered. Lately he’s been slightly possessive. Always questioning you where you’ve been, who’ve been talking to. He bombards you with questions after a man has said ‘hello’ as you both walk together in the street.

The relationship didn’t start off that way. But insidiously the relationship and trust you both had with one another has deteriorated. You confront him. You tell him the relationship isn’t working. He cries. He says he’s sorry. But this time you don’t cave in. You’re studying to be a lawyer, not a doormat.

You stand up from sitting on his soft black leather couch and turn and walk away. You hear him rise from the couch too. You know leaving will not be easy. But then smack you hit your head on the hallway wall. You have stumbled after something, or should I say, someone’s hand, has pushed you hard on your back. Your whole body jolting from the unexpected push. Now you’re just a tinsy bit afraid. You’ve seen his temper. It’s not charming.

Even though you’re afraid, you feel safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t kill you. Bruise you? Possibly. Give you a black eye? Another possibility, but you doubt it. You can’t hide a black eye. Smack. This time you fall to the ground. Something has hit your head. Now you are truly scared. This man, your now ex-lover is acting out of character. Sure he is a hot head. But this? You feel the warmth of blood trickling down your face. You turn to see where he is. He’s disappeared. You half stumble to the closest room with an internal lock. The bathroom. You lock the door behind you. Then wait. He will calm down. Then you hear it. A click…

This story may sound familiar to you. Or it may not. It’s only speculation of what may have happened recently when a young woman, 29 year old model, Reeva Steenkamp, an aspiring lawyer was shot in her boyfriend’s bathroom. The accused, 26 year old Olympic hero, Oscar Pistorius has admitted to killing his girlfriend but says it was accidental. He thought the person he was shooting was an intruder and fired in self-defence.  Whether it was a cold-blooded attack or an accident, the courts will decide.

Of course if it was coldblooded murder, why would this young sportsperson kill someone he loved? Was it control, or lack of control? Was it jealously? Was it due to power or lack of it?

On the website, Say No to Violence, it states:

“Based on country data available, up to 70 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime – the majority by husbands, intimate partners or someone they know.”

Among women world-wide between the ages of 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. (Say No to Violence)  

Here in NZ, data from the Women’s Refuge website states that one in three women experience psychological or physical abuse from the partners in their lifetimes. Police are called to around 200 domestic violence situations ever day – one every seven minutes on average. On top of this the NZ police estimate that only 18 per cent of domestic violence incidents are reported.

In the US, one third of women murdered each year are killed by intimate partners.

South Africa is a country with alarming statistics on violence against women. In SA, a woman is killed every 6 hours by an intimate partner.

The US, NZ and South Africa are countries with a growing gap between the wealthy and the marginalised. But as Say No To Violence, states it can take “many forms and occurs in many places – domestic violence in the home, sexual abuse of girls in schools,  sexual harassment at work, rape by husbands or strangers, in refugee camps or as a tactic of war.”  It’s not just happening in the three countries above but throughout the world from Japan to Tanzania to Peru to India to the Uk, to Bangladesh and so on and so on.

I remember as a young woman being told by a female friend, that a young man that we both knew often beat up his girlfriend. Then she added: “But she deserves it.” This statement is over 20 years old, but I’ve never forgotten it. How many of you have been told something similar, and like me have done nothing. I’m not proud that I didn’t speak up for that girl. Or tell her I would be there for her.

What did this girl do to deserve being hit? Did she voice an opinion? Stay out late with her girlfriends? Move some furniture around? Her boyfriend was having a bad day?

In reality we live in a violent society. Wars are a constant. Country versus Country. Religion versus religion. Ethnicity versus ethnicity. And many of us as the above statistics show are not safe in our own homes.

When is enough enough?

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