Have you ever had a lover or friend that you could trust with your life? Someone you cherished, looked up to and loved? You couldn’t have imagined how chaotic your life would be without them. Then suddenly, they left. They walked away. They wronged you. Cheated on you. This may not have been recent, but when the memories come flooding back, so does the pain. That betrayal, that overwhelming hurt ached far more than physical bruises. But you made it through; you escaped, left that pain and hurt in the past. You were free.
Now, think of all that pain again and multiply it by a hundredfold: that is the emotional and physical pain a domestic violence victim feels.
Domestic violence. A crime that has affected even the strongest of women and to this day is an issue at rise around the globe. A crime that has seriously harmed and, in some cases, also lead to deaths.
Who are these abused women?
They are women that we see every day in our neighborhoods, in our local supermarkets, at work, schools, malls, but we cannot tell them apart from the crowd. Why? We see their scars and ask about them, they lie and say they fell or bumped into something. When we see them looking upset or worried, we ask and they lie once again and say it’s ‘work-related’ or ‘nothing’ – an obvious indicator that they do not want to discuss the issue.
Regardless of how strong these abused women seem on the outside, they are just as hurt and broken on the inside. They are scared, vulnerable and un-trusting of anyone. They want to reach out and seek help but fear that when they extend their hands, no one will grab them and give aid. They want to speak the truth, but worry their words will fall on deaf ears. They become nothing more than an empty shell of who they once were.
The issue of domestic violence is so widespread, from rich countries to poor, from the West to the rest of the world; it crosses all barriers. Whether it’s verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, many women are mistreated to the point where they either emerge as broken survivors or don’t emerge at all. According to www.womensaid.ie, at least a billion women have been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime by a family member or a partner.
What’s worse is that attacks are never a one-time event; they soon turn into a pattern, almost like a habit for the assaulter to get his way [I say “his” because in most reported cases it has been a male assailant, that is not to say there aren’t any female attackers out there as well].
There is help out there
According to an article in Gulf Weekly, there are shelters in the UAE that cater to the needs of these abused women in the hopes of encouraging women to report such incidences in which they themselves have been subject to such abuse or know someone who is being abused. The problem with that is, though, it’s a good initiative, a lot of women tend not to report their abuse in fear of being left completely alone and helpless, being embarrassed, or even worse, their offenders finding out and hurting them even more.
Some women report these cases late, but by then their bruises are gone, their scars faded, and their stories become less believable. There are, more often than not, no witnesses as such incidences happen in the privacy of their home. Even if there are any witnesses, they are either too fearful to come forward or simply don’t want to get involved in someone else’s ‘family matter’, further decreasing the legitimacy of the horror that the women have probably gone through.
Do we ignore these women wilfully?
We see various ad campaigns addressing this issue. Yes, they are effective and yes, they strike a chord in our hearts; but for how long? These ads, like many, are useful and informative but only seem to occupy our minds for a fleeting moment because we don’t think we will ever be subject to such a horrid fate or even know someone who would. We don’t choose to, but by default, we tend to shelter ourselves from such unfortunate occurrences around us, and we forget that there are real women out there suffering through this every single day.
It is a sad truth, but unfortunately, much like the ads, this will be read and forgotten. These women are treated as invalids, unimportant, like pieces of furnitureTheir feelings and emotions are given absolutely no thought. It is a shame there are not many people out there to save them from their perpetrators.
Cases in the U.A.E
Women are constantly taught not to act a certain way, not to say certain things, and sometimes not to feel certain things either, but there are men out there mistreating their wives, daughters and girlfriends guilt-free. Is no one teaching them that that is NOT how you treat a woman?
According to a Gulf News article, in the UAE alone, 333 family cases were reported in 2013 compared with the 299 in 2012, and 507 cases involving married couples were reported in 2013, compared to the 380 in 2012.
Yes, one can argue that perhaps more cases are being reported now and it’s not the incidents that are increasing, but at the end of the day, they are happening. What’s worse is they are only increasing. Who knows how many hundreds go unreported?
I am, by no means a feminist or pointing fingers at anyone, but what I do insist is that some serious action be taken against those who treat their women ill and don’t consider, even for a second that those they are abusing too are human beings. They feel pain when they are struck, or verbally abused. They feel hurt when their trust is broken. They feel betrayed when the one who promised to look after them for the rest of their lives did not give it a second thought before raising his hand to them. So, if you or someone you know is going through this: take action – speak out. There is help out here for you. As dramatic as it sounds, you might be saving your own or somebody else’s life.
As a woman who comes from a culture where it is (unfortunately) common-practice to beat and abuse women, I find myself still quite uncomfortable. It is not okay to treat your women like they don’t feel any of the abuse that is inflicted upon them. What most people don’t see is that the scars, cuts and bruises are not just on the skin; their pains run much deeper and though they might fade over time, the emotional scars of these women may remain forever.
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