I’ve been more than a little bemused for quite a while now about the approach taken by various non-for profits and governments to the problem of violence against women. Inevitably the messages sent out to the general public are about men and for men. Men must stop violence against women, by taking a pledge, by getting help, by stopping. Yes. I agree. But…
What about the women? When will we start helping women to get out of these abusive relationships? When will we start teaching girls that they are valuable and don’t need a relationship, any relationship, to be of worth?
Why is it that there are women who actually believe that abuse, even physical abuse, in a relationship is the norm? It’s because they grew up in homes and extended families where it was. It’s because they have never known anything different. It’s because nobody ever told them that it wasn’t OK. It’s because they never expected anything better for themselves.
Yes, I speak from experience. My own history shows me just how desperate I was to be in a relationship, even with someone who I had doubts about, with someone who controlled me emotionally, with someone who was psychologically twisted.
Yes, I was desperate. Somehow, I wasn’t complete unless I was in a relationship, unless I was married and had the “perfect” life. And then that “perfect life” came back and bit me on the arse and helped me see just how endemic abuse against women is.
You won’t see it, you won’t know it, unless you are trained to or have experienced it. And I’m not just talking about physical abuse.
Emotional and psychological abuse is everywhere. It’s there in how people relate to one another, in what they say and don’t say, in what they do and don’t do. It’s there in the shouting and the silent treatment, it’s there in what women feel that they are allowed to do and not do. It’s there in the sex you don’t really want to have and in the guilt you feel when going out with your girlfriends. Yes. That is abuse. Nobody has the right to tell an adult what they are allowed and not allowed to do. (Well, our laws can.) I am constantly taken aback at the half-joking comments from women in steady, loving relationships about the things their partners will “let” them do. Really?? It’s scary because it’s only HALF-joking.
I see emotional abuse everywhere. Yes, I am super sensitive to it and I question whether I am over-sensitive, but my intuition tells me I’m not. I just see it. In those perfect and not-so-perfect relationships – it’s there. Women in those relationships refuse to see it, or excuse their partners and blame themselves. Or accept that it’s just the way things are, that these are the things they have to put up with to keep their families whole.
By keeping your families whole you are showing your children how women are to be treated. You are setting an example for your sons and daughters, you are telling them what is OK.
It is not OK.
Stand up for yourself. Look inside, feel deeply, understand what is really OK. Being pushed, being yelled at, being told what you are not allowed to do, or spend money on, is not OK. Being emotionally blackmailed into having sex, being ignored, being left alone to deal with the children and the house, being denied rest and leisure, those things are not OK. Yes, you can walk away. A whole family does not mean a healthy family.
No, not only men commit emotional abuse. Women do it to. Yet women are constantly called on it. We are bitches, we nag, we complain, we keep our men on a short leash.
Men are never called out on it.
It is not OK.
Call your man on it. Show him what he’s doing. Understand that it’s not OK.
Talk to someone. Get support, get help. Find solutions. There are always solutions. There are always choices.
Teach your daughters to respect themselves. Teach your sons that women are not commodities, that women are partners.
Your children see you every day. They see how you are treated, how you treat yourself. They see what you think is OK. Do you?