From Webster’s Dictionary:
noun \ˈvī-lən(t)s, ˈvī-ə-\
: the use of physical force to harm someone, to damage property, etc.
: great destructive force or energy
and from dictionary.reference.com:
Yesterday I posted a picture of an orange that we had “abused” in the kitchen for culinary reasons. One of my readers was reminded of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which the UN began last month on the 25th. In order to keep it going, they are asking for people around the world to wear orange on the 25th of every month. Her comment made me start thinking about this subject…here are my thoughts as of this moment.
Here I sit in the comfort of my home, secure in the fact that at this moment I am not experiencing any violence against my Self, my body, my mind. I grew up not witnessing any overt acts of violence to my friends. This does not mean I don’t have scars, violence can take many forms, often the more subtle forms are overlooked because they don’t leave bruises. I do know what it’s like wondering which father would come out of the bedroom, and trying to be a good girl so I wouldn’t get yelled at or put down. I became wise in the ways of alcohol, learning that criticism was just around the corner, that emotions were only to be expressed in the safety of your own bedroom and that what father says is always right, even if he changes his mind several times a day. These forms of abuse were often wrapped up in words that were specifically chosen to portray a meaning that the rest of the world might not get. I know what it’s like to expect this kind of behavior from men, to read between the lines in order to protect myself, even when it’s not necessary. I know what it is like to take those words into my adulthood and start to live by them. I know how difficult it is to put them aside, to begin to hear other words, to find my Self and to like her.
That being said, I do NOT know what it’s like to live with fear of physical abuse on a daily, hourly basis. I do not know what it’s like to endure, day after day, someone’s anger that is so intense and has nowhere to go but out the fist. I do not know what it is like to wonder if those soldiers outside my door will cross the invisible line from civilized to uncivilized and rape me, just because. I do not know what it is like to have to pick myself up and feed a family as best I can with no food or money. I do not know what it is like to be called names that are designed to demean, minimalize and animalize a person.
I don’t know any of these things but I am acutely aware that at any moment I could, the balance of power swings in a heartbeat, chaos is just around the corner, and my safe world could go up in flames tomorrow. I do know what it is like to have someone try to grab part of my life away, to open an envelope and know that my life will be different through no desire of my own. The sense of helplessness is overwhelming, the feelings are myriad: anger, fear, sadness, anxiety…the list goes on.
There is no use saying that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger for there are more ways to define death than what is in the dictionary. There are hundreds of moments of grief in a day. The challenge is to survive and continue. To go on because there is no choice. To strengthen ourselves however we can and to fight back whenever we can. I can’t change who my father was, but I can forgive, transform and grow.
I once was watching a movie with my husband that had a rape scene in it. He did not understand why it upset me so much that I had to leave the room. (As I recall, I had to go outside and pace around mumbling and cursing). I may not have been raped, but I could feel pain as if I had. This is why violence against women is not just an isolated thing. Because we feel each other’s pain. And men, well, for the most part they just don’t. So it’s up to us to tell them.
For what it’s worth, violence is an equal opportunity entity. It is global and crosses racial, ethnic, socio-economic and age boundaries. Nobody is exempt. Sometimes the violence becomes self-inflicted. I don’t have the answers to fixing the problem, I don’t know if it can be fixed. Wearing orange one day a month sure isn’t going to fix it, but I feel that by mentioning it in my blog I can at least put some words to something that happens all around the world. If you live in a country where you can vote for politicians who have women’s interest in mind…do so. As Hilary Clinton says repeatedly, “women’s rights ARE human rights.”
“I welcome the chorus of voices calling for an end to the violence that affects an estimated one in three women in her lifetime. I applaud leaders who are helping to enact and enforce laws and change mindsets. And I pay tribute to all those heroes around the world who help victims to heal and to become agents of change .”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
And yes, I will probably wear orange on Christmas Day.
For more information on this subject go to http://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/