I was at a popular furniture store a while ago, waiting in line at the customer care desk, when a sobbing woman caught my attention. Her husband was shoving her through the crowd, calling her names. Ashamed and distraught, she tripped over her clothes and fell to the ground.
A staff member walked up to her husband and asked him not to make a scene in the shop. Furious, the man responded that it was none of his business. So the worker asked that he ‘please take his problem home’.
While this exchange took place, I offered to help up the woman and told her that I wanted to help.
‘Please let it go. I’ll be fine, don’t make it worse,’ she said.
I’m not sure if it was my own fear or my naivety, but I stepped back. I cannot erase her image from my mind. I did not know this woman, but I saw her pain. I saw it in her eyes and in her nervous smile. And, as she tried to convince me she was alright, I saw her broken spirit. I wish I had insisted. I wish I had been brave enough to be strong for her and for the many women like her.
How many times have we witnessed a similar uncomfortable exchange and thought, ‘That’s not my problem’? It was shocking yet common to hear the worker ask the man to ‘take his problem home’ rather than not be the ‘problem’ himself. And you could hear the people around us whisper in hushed tones. ‘I wonder what she said or did to deserve it’.
That is where the real issue lies. That people think that a woman could do something to deserve that sort of treatment. That people look for faults in women to justify the violence they face, or blame them for their situation. That we can witness something like that and turn a blind eye and think, ‘that’s not my business’.
The violence against women is everyone’s business.
So many women who experience violence do not have a voice for many different reasons. It could be financial dependency, fear, a desire to protect their children, or simply that they are so buried into their cycle of abuse that they no longer recognize that it is abuse. They are conditioned to blame themselves and accept the abuse. It is the role of all of us to become the voices of those women who cannot speak for themselves.
There are so many different types of violence; physical abuse, emotional and physiological abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, threatening, stalking and cyber stalking.
All of these forms of abuse are #notok. If you believe you may be a victim of such abuse, you are not alone. You are not doing your children a favour by staying in a marriage that shows them that love is violent, that love is damaging and demeaning.
Protect yourself and your children and end the violence. If you stay in an abusive relationship you are teaching your sons that this behavior is acceptable and you’re teaching your daughters that it is okay to be abused. They, in turn, will grow up to either inflict similar behavior on their spouses or accept it from them and the cycle will never end.
It can be very tempting to give your abusive spouse excuses such as, ‘he was having a bad day’, ‘he’s stressed’, or ‘I provoked him’. There is no excuse. There is nothing you could do that gives a person the excuse to harm you in this way. You are worthy of respect and safety, especially in your own home.
Violence in all its forms is never a communication of true power or control. It is the struggle from the attacker within himself with his own insecurity and the lack of control to communicate or channel his emotions.
All forms of violence and abuse begin with disrespect so make sure you catch the red flags early on. Do not allow anyone to tell you that you are not worthy of respect or dignity. Do not allow anyone to take that away from you.
Strong men would not be threatened by strong women. If you feel in any way unsafe in your home or your relationship, re-evaluate your situation. A home should be a place of safety and love.
Protecting women begins with all of us. Ask yourself what you can do to protect the women around you from violence. It could be by raising awareness or creating resources. Or it could be by reaching out to abused women and connecting them with the help they need to remove themselves from the abusive situations they are in. If each one of us could do one thing, however small, we can create a ripple effect.
The next time you witness violence, do not turn a blind eye. Call it out. Inform the authorities and make sure you stay safe yourself. Break the silence when you witness violence, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
Be part of the solution in ending violence against women and the voice for women everywhere who cannot stand up for themselves. Educate yourself and the women around you on the signs of abuse and remember that abuse is not restricted to uneducated people. People who are highly educated can still inflict abuse and can be victims of abuse in all its forms (you would be surprised).
Let’s protect girls and women everywhere, starting with our own communities and make the world a safer place for our daughters.