Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Trigger Warning – this post is going to be upsetting to read.
I have been reflecting on this a lot lately.
I am part of a support network of single mums around the world, and it is shocking to me that almost every single week one of the women in my network shares a story like the ones below.
- My ex-boyfriend is sending me threatening text messages
- My ex-husband has stolen my passport and hidden it so I can’t leave
- My ex-partner grabbed me by the throat and choked me, and said he’d kill me if I don’t go back to him
(there are far worse stories in my support group, stories so awful I can’t post them on here, these are just the ones that come up the most often).
I am trying hard to imagine a single dad’s support group where these kind of stories would be told with such shocking regularity. And I just can’t.
The #MeToo movement swiftly became a phrase in common parlance but lost it’s true meaning.
I have thankfully never experienced the type of violence and abuse that I hear about all too often, but how often have I had rude, obscenities shouted at me by strangers about my body? How often have I been touched by strangers without my consent? Had my bum pinched, my boobs groped, had erect penises thrust against me in crowded pubs, trains, buses and tubes?
Literally too many times to count.
And let’s not even ask how many women I know who have had their drink spiked, skirts pulled up in public, or been seriously assualted or attacked – that number is far, far higher than it should be.
What is saddest of all is that I accepted all of these things as commonplace, because they happen to almost every woman I know, all the time.
Everyday sexism is still a problem, and these thousands of small incidences of groping on crowded trains and buses, of upskirting, of flashing, of assault and abuse, build up into a tsunami of men across the world exerting power and control over women.
The stories that have stayed with me, and still make me shudder with horror, are of women like Jennifer Schlect, and Jennifer Downes, fellow aid workers who I didn’t know personally, (though I know many people who did), but I remember and think of them regularly. Their deaths were so deeply tragic and devastating and should not have happened.
A story I heard years ago at a work meeting still leaves me lying awake at night sometimes whenever I think of it.
In northern Uganda, there are armed militia groups setting traps in the bush, to catch the women and girls when they collect firewood. They snare them like animals so that they can beat them and rape them.
On the days that I remember this, I despair for humanity, and wonder how we can have come so far, and yet here we still are, living in a world where men all over the world on a daily basis grope and abuse women against their will and without their consent.
Living in a world where there are men actually setting traps to catch women so that they can terrify and abuse them, and kill them like animals.
2020 is almost over, and yet for millions of women, 2021 will be terrifying and violent, and it has to stop.
It must end in our lifetimes. It has to.
This day is important, and we all have to do better now, and tomorrow, for women everywhere.
Take some action today and donate to a women’s shelter or charity supporting women who have been victims of GBV.
The link below is to a women’s shelter in Kenya run by a fellow single mum that I know from my network, but feel free to donate to a local charity or shelter near you to keep these options open for women living in terror and fear everywhere.