STOP THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN!

 

Reeva Steenkamp & Oscar Pistorius! Photo courtesy www.mbcnews.com
Reeva Steenkamp & Oscar Pistorius! Photo courtesy http://www.mbcnews.com

Like the rest of the world, I watched the Oscar Pistorius trial for the murder of his girl friend Reeva Steenkamp with keen interest. Being a lawyer, I am not surprised about the verdict handed down or even the sentencing; with a great lawyer and especially in cases of murder where the standard of proof is beyond all reasonable doubt any loopholes that can be found, will be thoroughly exploited.

That said, as a woman and as a human being, I find the whole affair very troubling, scary in fact! According to UN Women at http://www.unwomen.org, up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner and it is estimated that of all women killed in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members. Statistics also show that at least 1 in 3 women are raped or abused once in their life time and it is usually perpetrated by people in a position of trust- friends, family, partners!

In an article by Alanna Vagianos for the Huffington Post, she cites this statistic: “The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.” WOW!

This is absolutely scary. It is scary because I honestly don’t know where a woman or girl is meant to feel safe if not at home. When the world has pounded you, with all its legitimate challenges, where should you go and find succor if not at home? If not with your loved ones? Where can you go, let your hair down and be yourself- even your annoying self, if not at home? What exactly is happening and why is violence against women taking on epidemic proportions?

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”

We are on the same side! The woman you are battering is someone’s sister, someone’s daughter, someone deserving of love and sometimes, someone needing her insecurities and fears and maybe even bad behavior corrected through love. Relationships, family, co-existence are about collaboration, not competition!

I don’t understand the psyche of the abuser and there’s a lot of information about the violence that women suffer both in times of war and peace. However, I am very concerned about how we end the violence? How do we get it to start to reduce at least! How do we drive the conversation that being your partner doesn’t make her life less valuable and does not mean you own it and can take it out of anger! Who is teaching men, manhood?

I think that last question really is it. Who is teaching the man how to be a man? Where are his examples? Where are the men who stand up and tell other men, this is not acceptable! Who tells them what to do with their strength and that it is not for hurting those who you should protect. Where are the examples? And where are the teachers? How does society hold perpetrators responsible- with 5 years, that can be served out in 10 months, which I hear is shorter than the sentence for killing a rhino in South Africa?

This epidemic has to stop! The issue of violence against women, is not a woman problem, it’s not a man problem, it is A HUMAN PROBLEM! And we need more women speaking out against it and speaking up about it when it does happen, BUT more importantly we need men championing this as well. We need men speaking up for their wives, mothers, daughters and even the sanity of their sons and brothers (it cannot be the sanest existence to fly off the handle at every provocation and to hit or abuse someone else)!

I admit, I don’t have all the answers! But I wanted to get us thinking and talking about this subject. I also know some great people are searching for answers and how we can all help this situation get better, so I wanted to direct you to sites such as http://www.menstoppingviolence.org – where they equip men to speak up and teach other men about domestic violence and confront the issues even before they arise. They also teach men about growing their relationships with their daughters and help dispel cultural norms that create unsafe environments for women. The White Ribbon also has useful information and guidance on how men can help push this conversation on http://www.thewhiteribbon.org.au and a lot of information can be found at http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women.

Because I am a woman, because I will have a daughter, because I have a sister, because I have friends, and most importantly, because I have a son, whose future I see as bright, beautiful, purposeful and who I pray will be engaged in life enhancing  activities, this has to stop! It affects us all directly, when you are hitting someone instead of building your empire or yourself, you also are losing! Speak out and speak up today! Don’t hit a woman (or a man!), don’t be a perpetrator and don’t sit idly by when someone else is being victimized. Teach the young children to “jaw-jaw instead of war-war”! Please!

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