Today is the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.” For a minute, let’s imagine a world where at least one out of three women and girls were not subject to being “beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetimes, usually by someone they know”. Violence against women is reported by the UN’s Say No to Violence Against Women” campaign to be “perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today“. (The following paragraphs are taken from their report)
Statistics paint a horrifying picture of the social and health consequences of violence against women. For women aged 15 to 44 years, violence is a major cause of death and disability . In a 1994 study based on World Bank data about ten selected risk factors facing women in this age group, rape and domestic violence rated higher than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria ….
Domestic and intimate partner violence includes physical and sexual attacks against women in the home, within the family or within an intimate relationship. Women are more at risk of experiencing violence in intimate relationships than anywhere else.
In no country in the world are women safe from this type of violence. Out of ten counties surveyed in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 percent of women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Tanzania reported having been subjected to physical or sexual violence by intimate partners, with figures reaching staggering 71 percent in rural Ethiopia. Only in one country (Japan) did less than 20 percent of women report incidents of domestic violence . An earlier WHO study puts the number of women physically abused by their partners or ex-partners at 30 percent in the United Kingdom, and 22 percent in the United States .
Based on several surveys from around the world, half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women are killed by people they know and die from gun violence, beatings and burns, among numerous other forms of abuse . A study conducted in São Paulo, Brazil, reported that 13 percent of deaths of women of reproductive age were homicides, of which 60 percent were committed by the victims’ partners . According to a UNIFEM report on violence against women in Afghanistan, out of 1,327 incidents of violence against women collected between January 2003 and June 2005, 36 women had been killed — in 16 cases (44.4 percent) by their intimate partners .
According to the Secretary-General’s In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women, by 2006 89 States had some form of legislative prohibition on domestic violence, including 60 States with specific domestic violence laws, and a growing number of countries had instituted national plans of action to end violence against women…
Limited availability of services, stigma and fear prevent women from seeking assistance and redress. This has been confirmed by a study published by the WHO in 2005: on the basis of data collected from 24,000 women in 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted NGOs, shelters or the police for help .”
One I looked upon the world
With glasses colored rose.
I thought peace and tranquillity
Were what I would behold.
I dreamed that having faith
Would be the answer to all needs;
That love would flourish everywhere,
And all men would be free.
What I see, in reality —
Is a world that’s sometimes cold,
Full of people crying, hurting, suffering;
Their stories left untold.
And all too often, we of faith
Walk on the other side.
We shake our heads and scurry on.
We say, “The job’s not mine!”
A woman is abused:
We say, “Go bake your man a pie.”
Our ears are closed.
We cannot hear
The battered children cry!
They pound their heads upon the wall
And cry out to the town:
“Can’t you hear us? Can’t you see?!
IS ANYONE AROUND!?”
The frightened child cries in the night
“Oh, who will rescue me!?”
While all of her deliverers say,
“You surely can’t mean me!
I can’t be meant to take a risk
And venture from my safety!
There might be danger in that move;
It surely can’t be godly!”
And Jesus sees from heaven above —
He weeps with His heart broken.
He longs to comfort those who hurt,
But can’t wake up His chosen!
We stop our ears and cling to fears
From which we can’t be shaken.
But illusions fall
If we heed His call
To change and be forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord above,
According to Your kindness.
Continue to open our eyes, oh God!
Deliver us from blindness!
Give us hearts to reach out
In Your mercy and Your grace
To those who need to know
You bear their shame
And their disgrace.
(From “Tamar’s Prayer” 1988)
My mother made me a poet. Not necessarily by inspiring me to read fine literature, but by her unique ability to string words together in ways you never forget. I learned from her the power of words at an early age. She had a well developed sense of meter and timing. She taught me never to take words for granted and to carefully measure the effect of the ones I used. I learned to be careful and sparing-that words could build up or tear down, and that even after attempting to take them back, their impact can remain, their sound resonating in your memory like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Writing has always been my passion, at least since I was a third grader in Mrs. Bosshard’s class. Every day that year, I’d present her a new story first thing in the morning. Although considered quiet and much too shy at that stage, I had discovered words could express things just fine if they were put on paper.
In high school, the creative writing class was taught by an “old hippie” with a gift for bringing out the creativity in people. At one point, after reading my rather dark poetry, she called me in for a conference; she was the only person who noticed the depression in process. She paid attention. Years later, two of my children were also blessed to have also had her for a teacher.
When it comes to using words, (both in conversation and in writing), I prefer the short version. Having to add enough detail, and box car enough thoughts to make something longer than a paragraph seems a bit of a challenge, but once the train gets rolling it’s kind of fun.
Writing things out on paper instead of letting them chase each other around in my head makes them easier to edit. I like the “delete” button, the drag and drop technique, and the bold print of emphasis much better than arguing or screaming. Emphasis by italics feels more civilized than clarity by decibel level and can express strong feelings just as well. There’s nowhere left for words to hide when they are displayed in black and white on the screen, hidden in plain sight. I can move sentences and ideas around, try new things, and reformat my opinions (both internally and externally). Making the ideas stand still long enough to be looked at objectively and cut down to size is exhilarating.
Poems and songs are to writing what photographs are to full-length films. They give a glimpse of a moment but they do not articulate the depth, the character development, background conflicts or the interconnectedness of events the way longer narratives do. The fight to add detail continues. I am drawn toward the guerilla tactics of poetry—select the target, plant the explosives, then run for cover before it detonates. I need to learn more patience for the process of development, strategy and written dialogue. Perhaps if I continue to work on written communication and doing the “long version,” verbal communications will become less draining and intimidating? One can dream that being comfortable with words in one setting will make them more comfortable with words in other settings….
Warning, I’m angry! Heard another story this week of yet another young woman trying to deal with the memories of abuse suffered at the hands of people she should have been able to trust as a child. (There are too many stories, and yes, I know it’s not just women telling them).
A long time ago, I watched a friend’s child have to testify in court against her step dad for his crimes against her humanity. I will never forget. As a naive Christian (I’m still a Christian, but hopefully less naive about the reality of evil and of people making really sucky choices and doing awful things to each other all over the world), I was left appropriately speechless. Pat answers, platitudes, and cliches come up pretty coldly empty at that point. What do you say in the face of evil?
The only hope I could find in that moment grew into the poem below….
The night is dark and stormy
There’s a cold wind in my soul
Seems like I’ve been torn apart
And never will be whole.
The suffocating weight that rests
Upon my broken heart
Holds me in my silence–
Lord, when will the healing start?
I cast about in frantic hope
That there might somehow be
Someone who can reach out
To break these chains and set me free.
But who can know the torment?
Who can really comprehend
Unless they too have been betrayed
By loved one or by friend?
As I cower in desperation
And in fear of what shall be,
A picture comes to mind
I know that you have given me…
I see you hanging on a cross
In agony betrayed,
Naked, torn and bleeding
So that we can be saved.
The one who lived and walked with you,
With whom you shared your soul
Was the person who betrayed you—
All my agony you know!
(Please do not misunderstand my point….I am not in any way trying to trivialize the suffering, grief, betrayal, rejection and incredible damages done by people who do this stuff! I am only trying to say it’s OK to be really honest with the rage, anger, pain, betrayal and that, since God knows what you’re thinking anyway, talk to Him about it. Jesus also was betrayed by someone He had shared life with. Don’t let the abusers win, and destroy you. Your life is worth more than that!)
“We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality….Take the mercy, accept the help.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 The Message).