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Silence is consent! We must speak out!

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Tue May 28, 2013

Dear St Vincent,

The comments heard among your people about abuse and violence against women would shock humanitarians. Men rarely comment on the matter or discuss it among themselves. Others may respond: “but men are abused too and it happens all over the world”, diluting the serious issue of women as targets of violence and abuse into a generalization. Whilst the arguers are bobbing about over who agrees with whom, the abusers go on their ominous way.{{more}}

Of course there are incidences of violence against men by women, but the incidence of men violating women outweigh them by far – and what motivates the attacks is different. The issue is not to agree or disagree, but to acknowledge our experiences and provide healing action to all abuse. To be caught in the trap of “who’s right and who’s wrong” (obviously the abuse and violence is wrong!) successfully obfuscates a serious issue.

I know two men who have been criminally abused by family members. They keep it to themselves, as the stigma for men speaking out as victims of abuse in a machismo culture is even greater than for a woman who does so. However, I know in excess of forty Vincentian women (two murdered in the past year) who have been repeatedly abused as children, by partners, or as targets of criminals for burglary and rape. Some are suffering the compounded effects of more than one or all these circumstances of abuse. Every young woman I know complains about being sexually harassed whilst walking in village or town streets.

The following comments are frequently heard responses when a woman complains of being abused, some uttered by police to whom reports were being made:

“You was begging for it dressed like that. ”

“He must love you a lot”

“I don’t know what you have done to him to make him behave like that”

“You too ‘fraidy ‘fraidy; act like a real woman, go back to your house”

“He threaten to shoot you? He only trying to frighten you; I told my girlfriend if she butt me I go shoot her”.

If we find any of the above sexist statements acceptable, (whether male or female) we must recognize we have been successfully inculcated to deny the presence of abuse in all its forms and are thus contributing to the nation’s cycle of abuse of the vulnerable.

The widespread psychotic misconception that abuse = love, develops when parents beat and verbally abuse children. In the absence of love and positive reinforcement, the child finds they get the most attention when they are being abused. The craving for love, as a basic need, and its confusion with abuse, sets up the victim to tolerate abusive relationships later on.

In America, 70 per cent of domestic femicides occur after a woman has ended a relationship. We don’t seem to gather these statistics here, but it seems the majority occur here when a woman attempted to leave, had left or was being stalked by an

abuser. So here we see the reason why many women never leave an abusive relationship or return to the abuser. THEY FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES AND THOSE OF THEIR CHILDREN.

Not being taken seriously by those whose job it is to protect, many women expose themselves to more danger in a desperate attempt to protect themselves. The mental and emotional cost of all this to a human being is immense. It affects lives of mothers and children, families. The reality of the life of the abused is not being told, but it is being lived on a daily basis, making the entire nation a captive of abuse. Knowing these facts, how can we NOT take seriously the investigation of reports of domestic abuse?

The majority of Vincentians see violence from an ex/partner as different to that from a stranger. Police use this misguided differentiation as an excuse not to investigate, hence their “hands-off” approach to domestic violence. Abusers thus know they will get away with their reign of terror. But in Europe, Asia and other Caribbean islands, abuse is abuse, violence is violence, and human rights are the rights of every human, whether at home or in public.

As women die and are being raped on a weekly basis, we must recognize the symptoms of an advanced systemic social sickness. Those of us who live on Youroumein’s shores and those overseas who long to return, for healing’s sake, must speak out. Silence is consent. We cannot retain our humanity and remain silent about the source of damage and loss to the lives of our mothers, sisters, daughters and sons.

On behalf of those who long to be silent in consent to peace,

Vonnie

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