Today, November 25, was designated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the United Nations General Assembly. I wanted to know how prevalent this issue is, so I asked Google and found worldwide statistics from the World Bank:
- Thirty-five percent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
- Seven percent of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner.
- Thirty-eight percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
This means that for every three women you know, one of them will have experienced either physical or sexual abuse. Seven women out of 100 have been sexually assaulted by a man they either didn’t know or who they did not give consent to—men who think they can force themselves on and ultimately into a woman just because he wants to. And more than one-third of women who are murdered are killed by the man who is supposed to love her. Do these statistics bother you as much as they bother me?
Let’s unpack some of the beliefs abusers must hold to be able to perpetrate abuse, up to and including death, on a woman who is unable to adequately defend herself against her male counterpart due to his size and strength.
- Men who abuse must believe the following:
- Women are property to deal with accordingly and as I see fit.
- It is my right, and responsibility, to keep her in line.
- Because I am bigger and stronger, I decide and I am always right.
- What I want and need is more important than anything you could want or need.
- Women are disposable.
Each and every one of those statements above makes my heart hurt and begs the question, “Where did they learn those things?”
Certainly, some can be explained by certain cultures and religions that perpetuate the idea that women are to be subservient to men and punishment will be doled out when they refuse. There are even countries who stone women for adultery; even in cases of rape, it is the woman’s responsibility to prove that she was raped.
Not that the United States is perfect, of course. The child abuse statistics haven’t changed much since I was working in the foster care field. One in three girls will be sexually molested by the time she reaches 18 years old. One in three! And that abuse can start in infancy.
You have only to read the headlines to learn of the massive amount of sex trafficking that goes on around the world. It is disgusting to me that there is a market of people who will pay money to have sex with children without their consent. What kind of twisted mind can find enjoyment over fulfilling his needs with a child—a child who was taken from her parents, having been placed in a life of servitude of the worst magnitude, all for someone’s sexual gratification. I can’t help but think of the lives traumatically affected and even lost due to men who think this is a fine thing to do.
And then there are the boyfriends and husbands who profess their love to a woman who loves them back; then, because of their own demons, they use that woman as their own personal punching bag when they can’t stand themselves anymore.
If we are going to be able to stop violence toward women, we must get to children early. A boy who lives in a home where his mother is being abused learns the lesson that this is what love looks like and often grows up to repeat the cycle. We need to help children learn to develop self-esteem because a person who likes themselves will not feel the need to put others down to make themselves feel better.
We need effective treatment to help the men who genuinely want to stop their abusive, bullying behavior.
Considering that abusers typically isolate their victims, we need to educate women that they are not alone. There are shelters designed to provide a safe space for women in need to gather themselves and begin a life without their abuser. Reach out for help.
Women need to be taught from an early age that they are worthy and deserve better. Love is never supposed to hurt—full stop.