This beautiful and telling illustration is by Matthew Bray.
World Day against Gender Violence
Today is November 25th, the date the UN has declared World Day against Gender Violence — a truly black Friday (though not in the commercial sense of the word). Gender violence is a fact of life in virtually every country worldwide. While, I don’t know what the answers are to these crimes, I do think it worthwhile to look at it in all its ugliness and think about what it says about us as a world. So, today’s post is to reflect on the issue, share a bit of personal history, but above all, to send a message to the girls, teens, and women who are suffering or have suffered gender violence and to the whole world.
Since I live in Spain, I will cite the figures I am painfully aware of. As of yesterday, 40 women in Spain have been murdered by their (ex-) partner or (ex-)spouse. FORTY women — 40!!!! These women had families and friends; they touched the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands of people, and they were loved — by their parents, children, friends, relatives… Every life they touched is a little bit more impoverished for their death, and we, as a society, are still unable to come up with the strategies capable of overcoming this plague.
I suffered sexual abuse in the home as a child-adolescent, though I do not speak on behalf of anyone. I speak only with my own voice and my message is just that, my message. I’m hardly an example, much less a role model for anyone, and I do not purport to know what the answers are. What I can say is that the abuse I suffered then marked my life in many, many ways and has taken me more years that I even know to overcome. These are years of my life that affected how I saw myself, how I thought about myself, even to the point of erasing my “Self” from my own awareness.
To avoid the reality, I sought refuge in many other things and it wasn’t until I was in my 20s and returned home with my baby daughter that the flashbacks of what had happened to me brought the reality of my past to my awareness so I could deal with it. Still, it would take me many years before I felt strong enough to actually face up to what had happened and take it out of its box — I was terrified and it took me more years than I care to admit, but I have finally stared down the monster that is abuse and made peace with myself.
- The messages I want to share with other women, adolescents, and girls who suffer this violence in its many disguises, and with the world as a whole are that:
It’s not your fault. Let me repeat that so that you can let it sink in. It’s NOT your fault!!! The sufferer is never, NEVER to blame. Forget about what your abuser tells or has told you. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!!!
- Gender violence is about the perpetrator, not the sufferer. Heart in hand, I never saw my abuser as a monster — what he did was monstrous, but he was not a monster. He was a very tortured soul who suffered tremendous emotional pain. I have nothing but love and compassion for him. That being said, I will not justify the unjustifiable!! He may not have had the emotional resources to act any differently, but that did not give him the right to abuse me!!!!
- Perhaps, most importantly, I want to shout out loud and send my message of hope to everyone — THE HUMAN SPIRIT IS STRONG!!!! It — we, as humans — can withstand horrendous, heinous acts and survive. We do it everyday!! If you are suffering violence, believe in your strength and know that you can find your way out!!!
With the strength of our spirit, let us all stand strong and say “NO” to gender violence and violence of all kinds. We are capable of doing infinitely better!!!!! We are one Humanity — one and the same!!! There can be no “us” and “them” if we are to make the world the kind of place we all deserve to live in!!! Please, take time to reflect on this regularly: the Human Spirit is both sensitive and strong and we all, each and every one of us, belong to the same Humanity; we are all members of the same human family!!!World Day against Gender Violence