Citizen Steff Against Violence Against Lovers

According to a recent study by the UN’s World Health Organization, the greatest threat to a woman’s safety and life is her partner.

The irony is, most of us claim to feel safer when we’re involved. Nothing quite makes the cold, bitter world outside fade away than the comforting arms of a man. But the facts are facts, and depending where you are in the world, there’s anywhere from a 1 in 7 to 7 in 10 chance (15 – 70%) that you’re going to be victimized by your lover at some point in your life, and if it happens once, you can almost lay Vegas odds on it happening again.

Violence is never, ever okay. Apologies are just words. Actions speak far louder. Violence is never the way to solve problems. There is never an excuse that can justify someone raising a hand (or belt or frying pan or stick or tire iron) against you. And contrary to popular opinion, men are battered, too. And that’s just as wrong.

I don’t care who you are or what your excuse is, if you’ve ever smacked someone or done any kind of physical violence because you were “angry”, then you have issues and you need to deal with it if you haven’t already. And if you’re in a relationship with someone who’s been violent against you, you need to walk.

Some relationships, it’s hard to walk. Hell, it might be the hardest thing you ever do. There are those who will threaten the lives of their “lovers”, in the instance that the victimized one would leave, and anyone who’s staying put as a result of that threat needs to seriously realize that staying put is almost as real a threat to your life as leaving, but that leaving at least offers the hope of change and healing.

I am not a professional. I cannot and will not pretend to understand the horrors that happen in some people’s lives. The only thing I know is, hard things can be overcome, and there are people out there who have the ability to help. They’re waiting for you.

If you’ve been a victim, you’re not alone. It happens every millisecond somewhere in the world. People understand more than you think. And you are not the person your victimizer believes you are. You are not a victim. You’re a survivor. You need to fight. You need to realize that you have the basic human right to protect yourself and to expect to be treated in a humane, caring way.

Even if you’re in a marriage, you’re not property. You can be raped by your spouse. Having sex is a choice, not an obligation – despite the fact that I believe sex to be a deeply important part of a relationship. If you do not consent, do not want to do it, and you have expressed that you don’t want to have sex, then it’s rape. There’s a lot of bickering out there sometimes about whether no really means no or if it’s possibly a maybe, but every time I’ve looked it up in the dictionary, “no” has meant exactly what rumour has suggested it means: “to reject or refuse approval.” Hmm. Seems pretty clear to me.

Some people want to be abused in different ways, and they belong to the BDSM society. They like paddles on their asses, clamps on their nipples, flogging with leather, and more. Some walk away from this “past-time” with bruises, welts, and other wounds. Yes, it’s a choice. But it’s also a very structured society built on respect and rules. There’s always a stop word. There are always rules and protocols to follow in the lifestyle, and anyone who doesn’t follow the rules will get a reputation in the circles.

In an abusive relationship, abuse is unwanted. There are no stop words. It’s an exercise of inhumanity – domination over a weaker person, and the willful act of degradation and humiliation, all in an attempt to usurp power and morale.

If you’re not getting the treatment you want in a relationship – whether it’s something as simple as the person not respecting your time or your schedule, or taking advantage of your finances, or blowing up over stupid issues and refusing to resolve them like an adult, or calling you names and mocking you, or something more harsh like their hitting you and demeaning you, or flat-out sexual abuse – then you have every right and every reason to walk.

If you’re being abused, it’s likely that more than one person in your life has seen the signs but doesn’t know how to talk about it with you. It’s likely that they’re waiting for you to ask for help. If you feel can’t trust them, that’s understandable, and then you need to find an organization you can trust – shelters are found in almost every city in the world. Here in Vancouver, we have a terrific organization called Women Against Violence Against Women. There are even underground networks that will help relocate you if your life is in danger.

You deserve happiness. If being together is hurting you, you need to explore your options and find the strength to change your life. Leaving isn’t the end of the world – it’s the end of a cycle. The start of something new. The start of you having courage, pride, and the strength of will to realize that you are not your legacy, and pasts don’t need to become our futures.

Do a Google search for: violence, women, shelters, and your hometown. Be careful. Be brave.

Here are some statistics about abuse in the world:

  • In both the WHO’s international study (featuring Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia, Thailand, and Tanzania) and in American-based studies, more than 25% of those asked (including men) have experienced violence in a relationship, and most said it had happened in their present relationship.
  • Only about half of domestic violence is reported to authorities in the United States, with African-American women being more likely to report their abusers. (Good for them.)
  • 25% of women and 8% of men in the American National Violence Against Women Survey reported they had been raped and/or assaulted at least once in their lives. (I’m fortunate, it has never happened to me in any way.)
  • Rape victims often experience anxiety, guilt, nervousness, phobias, substance abuse, sleep disturbances, depression, alienation, sexual dysfunction, and aggression. They often distrust others and replay the assault in their minds, and they are at increased risk of future victimization (DeLahunta 1997).
  • A 1996 study showed that women who had been victimized sexually and with battery showed all the same post-traumatic symptoms experienced by survivors of wars and natural disasters.
  • More than HALF of all rapes against women occur before the age of 18, and more than 22% occur before the age of 12 in America.
  • Domestic violence occurs in 25 – 33% of same-sex relationships.
  • Annually, approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked into America for sexual slavery and/or forced labour.
  • In South Africa, a woman is raped every 83 seconds.
  • In Bangladesh, more than 70% of women report violence in their relationships.
  • Here in Canada, a study in the late ‘80s showed that more than 60% of women murdered were killed by their partners, a statistic that mirrors that of Zimbabwe and many other countries.

Violence is unacceptable. Regardless of how daunting and horrifying some of these statistics are, abusers are not omnipresent in our society. There are men, and women, who know how to love, cherish, and dote on their partners. I’m one, and every man I’ve been with has been one. I look for early warning signs: Is their anger in keeping with the situation? Are they aggressive drivers? Do they treat others with disdain and humiliation? Do they belittle me when I’m trying to trust them? Do they respect my needs? Do they know how to resolve conflict with conversation? Do they know how to take a deep breath and walk away for ten minutes when things are heated? If not, I know they’re not the fit for me. Little things are huge in the grand scheme of things, if you really know what you’re looking for. Don’t underestimate the early warning signs, and don’t let violence happen a second time. “Sorry” is the easiest thing in the world to say. Don’t believe it.

Statistics found on feminist.com and who.org.
Photos taken from who.org, and The European Parliament.