BURN IT DOWN!In commemoration of International Human Rights Day and in culmination of GABnet's 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women, GABNet NYNJ spoke to the women closest to us - our mothers, sisters, friends and allies -- about how violence against women has touched their lives. Their answers, posted below, offer a sobering picture, proving that violence doesn't just happen in far away places to people we don't know. In fact, these testimonials illustrate the violence that occurs every day, in our most intimate spaces.
Burn It Down, a video produced by GABNet NYNJ, also debuts today, communicating the source of violence for women and girls all around the world.
For far too long, those residing in powerful countries like the United States or those who occupy positions of privilege in life - whether it be through race, class or sex -- have separated themselves from their sisters living in the margins.
GABNet NYNJ knows that if we women are serious about fighting violence at home, we must also fight it every where else in the world where it occurs - whether in the conflict zones in the Congo, the war in Iraq, jails in Palestine and the United States, brothels in India or even in the pages of magazines. We know that not one woman is free until all of us are free.
How have you been a survivor/victim of violence, a witness of violence against women or a perpetrator of violence against women? What do you consider as violence against women? What do you think is the main source of violence against women? How do we end violence against women?
"I witnessed violence against a woman for the first time at about the age of two or three. Daddy was beating Mama. Shoving her up against the wall and punching her while she screamed, "Not in front of the children not in front of the children!" She was crying covering her face and trying to escape him. I moved out of their way to avoid the fury and up against I don't know what and all I heard in my head almost as loud as Mama's plea was 'Why?' 'Why is Daddy hitting Mama?'"
Incomprehensible. Thick as the thickest fog in the blackest night. Having a suffocating pillow pressed on your head so hard you feel the air leaving your body. Drowning and seeing the light of day fade. No answer. Blank. Nothing.
That's one of my earliest memories. And most disturbing memories.
My father was a raging alcoholic. Surely the source of his violence was in the bottle but not solely. I never knew much about his childhood because when I asked my grandparents they were vague. Was he repeating his childhood beatings? My brother did, after being beat by my father too. My father beat him and he beat my little brother and I.
Ending the violence against women? Stopping the pattern of domestic violence is just one way. Today with my own daughter that is how I am choosing to stop the violence against women. Ensuring that she has a safe home to grow in."
I was raised in a house where my father objectified women, and i was urged by my mother to not confront him when he manipulated his rights as a man and as a father. I grew up with a father who had no respect for the innate fragility and vulnerability of a girl's burgeoning sexuality and no respect for the strength of a woman. Because of this, I have scar tissue and obstacles around my heart and my ability to love and trust men. I am afraid to be vulnerable when sometimes vulnerability means intimacy.
I feel like we are constantly involved in one way or another with violence towards women. Spending eight months in a small coastal town in Spain, I was followed home a handful of times, many times with men masturbating as they walked behind me in the dark alleys to my apartment.
I also witnessed a lot, A LOT of verbal abuse towards women working as a bartender for many years. And in all of these cases, every single one, I feel like the man was not even thinking he might be doing something wrong. There's always an attitude of self-righteousness, as if it were his birthright to behave towards women this way.
We have to change the next generation by how we raise our children. I will try to teach our sons about a masculinity where abuse of his power in a patriarchal society is not an option, where his masculinity is complex and beautiful and not a weapon. And I will try to teach our daughters about a world where her femininity is strong and important, a world where she won't have to feel like she is compromising herself to love and be loved."
"We tend to think of violence as something that happens on a super scale, during war, in other countries, to other people, other women, not us. We are trained to ignore the violence that occurs and is directed toward us on a daily basis. This includes the objectification of women in advertisements that loom giant, over us constantly, in the city, the images we are bombarded with in magazines, television, movies and in the mainstream news media. And when we experience physical violence, either personally or through a friend, we internalize it and mold it into denial, shame, and self-hatred, or we lash out at other women, both personally and as an entire gender.
Then there is the institutional violence that manifests itself through the exploitation of over one million women a year in the sex and labor market. Some might consider this violence on a super scale, yet this large number is made up of individual women who experience violence on the personal level, both physically and emotionally. We can't separate ourselves from these millions. Their struggle is inextricably connected to ours.
I survived my father. I survived what that did to my self worth. I survived how that made me interact with boys and men. I have worked double time to love myself and my intelligence. I survived several alcoholic boyfriends. I survived an abusive relationship. I survived hearing the stories of nearly every one of my women friends. I watched my dear friend clench at the hands of the US sex industry. I survived and am surviving growing up in a world that hates women.
Violence against women is the direct result of thousands of years of a system that considers women to have very limited functions. It has a name: Patriarchy.
We have to begin to build alternative images, music, art, writing, relationships, families, education, communities, culture, and selves. We have to reassess our priorities and remember our global responsibilities to each other. And we have to say ENOUGH. We have to stop participating and corroborating in a system that is based on our subjugation."
a.) Yes I have been a victim of violence against women. My first week of college in Switzerland, I was followed home, held at gunpoint and robbed by a man who was never caught. He stole my cell phone, credit cards, three hundred dollars cash and my keys so I was paranoid for a long time and eventually moved apartments. Also, when I was seventeen, I was drugged at a club in Brazil and felt up. It sucked because I was wearing a skirt, fill in the blank.
b.) I define violence against women as a normal part of a woman's life. All women are bound to encounter some form of gendered violence at some point in their lives and this is totally unacceptable to me. From being psychologically bombarded with images and ideas of what to think about one's body and sexuality and what's "acceptable" behavior ... to verbal, mental, and sexual abuse taken from a dad, a sibling or a lover...to outright enslavement and wholesale torture/harassment/rape.
c.) The main source of violence against women is apathy and ignorance. It is caused by the belief of BOTH men and women that violence against women is limited to the physical. It is deepened by the denial of BOTH men and women that women's unequal recognition, treatment, security, autonomy, and history permeates our society, our world, at every level and at every stage of life
( P to the ATRIARCHY).
d.) Burn this shit down and start over.”
a) I have never been a victim of violence, a witness to violence or a perpetrator of violence. I hope that I would be smart enough not to surround myself with people who have violent tendencies or display abusive behavior. Non-Physical Violence? Insulting/Belittling, Yelling, Controlling and overbearing attitudes. Another one is guilt - inflicting guilt. Telling someone they are childish or that they are "disappointed" in them for silly things. These types of actions do bring a person's perception of their own self worth down several notches. Making a person feel less worthy and trapped can lead to suicide or attempted suicide. Thinking about guilting a woman brings me to thinking about how not just partners/spouses/boyfriends can do this to a woman, but how parents, family and friends can also do this to a person.
b) Obviously the physical abuse immediately comes to mind as violence against women. Hitting, spitting, beating, and belittling. Most definitely, domestic abuse comes to mind as well. No [I don't violence is perpetrated only against/by individuals]. I think parents, family and "friends" which can be groups of people can inflict a woman with both verbal and physical abuse. I believe that a person prone to abuse and violence, whether it is physical or not has a history of doing it to others in the past or even multiple people at once. Bullies usually don't have just one victim.
c) Domestic partners/or the person you are in a relationship with. Domestic abuse is the biggest problem, because a person is torn by their feelings for the perpetrator and what would happen if they reported them. This is probably what makes this type of abuse so common and the most dangerous. Common because you see the abuser so often. Dangerous because you do not want to report them because of love or loyalty. Most times, I believe that a person has low self-esteem or has been traumatized into thinking that they deserve or warrant the abuse. This type of thinking is what makes certain women (people in general) an easy prey for perpetrators of abuse. I know I am wrong though. So many women who are strong and intelligent never imagine themselves to be victims of violence/abuse, but do end up as victims. I don't want it to sound like I am making excuses for the men who abuse women. I am not. I believe that they purposely take advantage of what they might know about a person and use that to insult them or to hit them. I think it is a predator who knows how to pick and pull apart their victim that makes a predator so powerful. Usually the predator would have to be fairly close to a person to be able to break them down in such a manner. A person is probably extra vulnerable when they are overcome by their personal feelings (usually love or loyalty) for a person and just swallows the abuse. I feel women are more vulnerable to violence because women are more compassionate and sympathetic to their abusers than men might be.
d) Educate women. Educate men. Make people aware that violence is not acceptable and to treat women with respect. Make women aware of their self worth so that they are not easily targeted. learn self-defense, build communities. Educating people is the only thing I can think of. Community programs. Educational PSAs. More general awareness. Believe it or not, those Truth ads about smoking do impact people. Ads with women with black eyes or hospitalized and making statistics known are also very powerful. I've seen a few in the past, but not so often. Awareness. Seems to be a big factor. those who are not aware they are victims or victimizers may get the message. Maybe not, but if others can identify the abuse, it could save a woman's life.
GABNet NYNJ invites you to post your own answers to the questions we posed (in the comments section below). Sometimes, the first step towards ending violence is to break down the wall of silence that surrounds it.