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PLAYING CAROLINE: My experience of portraying the victim of dating violence in an educational skit

I took a job, one that I had unknowingly been searching for, as a dating violence awareness educator. My job is to help young adults understand what dating violence looks like, where it comes from, and what we, as a society can do to prevent the continuation of violence against girls and women both locally and globally. Dating and Domestic Violence, it turns out, is a much more widespread epidemic than most understand or admit. Take, for example, this mind blowing statistic: one out of three teen relationships have some element of abuse. Abuse is not defined as just physical, but is any instance of using power and control over one’s partner, which can include things like name-calling, threats, manipulation in any form, using jealousy to make decisions for your partner, and/or controlling who she/he talks to. Not surprisingly, 85% of the time this manifests as men’s violence against women. In our discussions with youth we focus on the key to prevention as being firstly, recognizing that we all participate in a society that normalizes and condones objectification, sexualization and dominance of women and girls, and then the choice we all have to not participate in behaviors that perpetuate this degrading treatment and view of women.

We help high school and college students understand what dating abuse looks like by presenting “Jake and Caroline”, a 30 minute skit in which we portray a relationship which includes several elements of abuse. In the skit, Jake is a seemingly charming, love-sick boyfriend who, after several months, slowly begins to control and abuse his girlfriend, Caroline. The abuse intensifies as the relationship and the skit progress. The play is intense; students watching it are inevitably engaged and often triggered by the accurate representation of what many of their relationships look like, the hauntingly familiar behavior of Jake, and the emotional trauma that Caroline experiences. It is effective, and stimulating and honest. As a presenter, it is incredibly meaningful to be part of this education. And as a woman, playing the victim of abuse, it is also incredibly challenging and triggering.

Playing Caroline has brought me face to face with my own experiences of sexism, objectification, and being controlled and manipulated by men in my life. It has shaken me to the core and made me understand that I am not just an educator to those experiencing abuse, I am also the one experiencing all of the sexism, objectification and dominance that have made Jake think it is okay to abuse Caroline. After playing Caroline, I realize I had been only partially aware of the objectification and sexism that women are subjected to, are victims of, in their daily lives. That’s not to say I wasn’t living it. Because I was, and I still am. As a woman, I have been objectified, taken advantage of, controlled, limited, verbally and emotionally abused, threatened, belittled, overlooked and outcast. And these are not isolated instances that I can count on one hand. No, these are everyday occurrences that have happened throughout my entire life, to the point that I haven’t even recognized them as anything other than normal.

When I started to understand Caroline’s experiences, my perception of the experiences of women, including my own, shifted drastically. In other words, I started to open my eyes. I began to realize that, although sexualization and objectification of women is widely accepted, that does not mean that it is normal, or okay, and that the everyday instances that I had too often brushed off as small and unimportant were actually profound examples of how this belief system has survived. I understood that the anger I felt was justified years ago when my landlord asked my boyfriend why he let me take Russian lessons when it was so useless. And the outrage I felt was justified when my former boss said he didn’t understand why his sister was becoming a firefighter because no man would ever feel safe with a small woman running into a burning building to save him. And that the fear I felt was inevitable and justified earlier today when a man rolled down his window to whistle at me as I walked on a quiet trail near the woods. These are just a few of the most minor examples of blatant sexism and objectification I have experienced, but it is important to understand how much these “smaller” moments actually contribute to the acceptance of such behavior, because these are the ones we most often discount as unimportant. And these are the ones that perpetuate a society where violence against women is accepted and condoned.

Playing Caroline has opened my eyes, and I plan to devote the time I have here to helping create change, to opening other’s eyes to the profound problems within our social framework, and changing things from the inside out. I strongly believe that creating awareness of the problems within our culture, along with spreading messages of possibility, hope, change and survival can drastically reconfigure the way we all look at and treat women and girls around the globe.

Comments

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture

commendable

collective and personal growth with a strong voice against violence.;.;

wish you all success

best regards,

Sutanuka

I live in my convoluted mind....

Karly N's picture

Thank you!

Dear Sutanuka,

Thank you for your comments, and for the wish of success. It is sincerely appreciated! I know my experiences are representative of the collective experiences of women everywhere, and I am grateful for your support!

All success to you as well,

Karly

lydiagcallano's picture

I can relate

I validate what you said in your essay, Karly. Many women, myself included, have been victims of date rape or sexual harassment. In some instances, the abuse is swept under the rug and deliberately forgotten because of guilt and fear. The victim usually blames herself for putting herself in the situation, or may feel afraid of retribution if ever she squeals. . Either way, the victim carries the burden all the way and the perpetrator gets away unpunished.

But thanks for efforts to prevent date rape or sexual harassment like what you are doing, Karly. Press on! God bless your concern for the victims and would-be victims.

Ma. Lydia G. Callano
Iloilo, Philippines
+63 33 3158137 or 5138830

Karly N's picture

Thank you, Lydia

Hi Lydia,

I so appreciate the honesty and understanding in your reply. You are so right about the guilt, fear and self blame that inevitably are attached to being the victim of this type of violence. I am honored to hear your thoughts and to have your support on this journey!

I wish you health and happiness,

Karly

Karly N's picture

Honored to be in this space!

Reading other journal entries has made me aware of how much collective experience and wisdom there is in this space. I am truly honored to be part of it.

lydiagcallano's picture

Feel at home with WP!

Welcome on board, Karly! Just be yourself, speak your mind, and pour out your heart any time. Everyone is your friend here at World Pulse. You will be blessed.

Ma. Lydia G. Callano
Iloilo, Philippines
+63 33 3158137 or 5138830

Karly N's picture

Thank you!

Thank you for those kind words, Lydia.

Nabiye Tal's picture

About our work in Nigeria

Hello Ma, how are you today? i trust great. i promised to send you a summary of what we do here, please find the info below, and we look forward to hearing from you on what we're doing well and how we can improve or what we can do better. Thank you so much and its nice meeting you. Cheers. Nabiye

1. BACKGROUND OF ORGANIZATION
I. NAME OF ORGANIZATION
Initiative for the Elimination of Violence against Women & Children (IEVAWC)

II. NAME OF THE FOUNDER/ CEO
Miss Nabiye Blessing John Tal

III. WHEN IT STARTED
Although founded June 14, 2006, was officially registered with the CAC July 18, 2008. The Organization comprises a team of young men and women who came together to work towards providing solutions and answers to questions posed to us by women and children who have been violated in one way or the other, and to bring Joy and succour to women and Children who are hurting.

IV. CORE VISION OF THE ORGANIZATION? SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM.
MISSION STATEMENT
• To inspire men and women, youth and children through sensitive education and enlightenment campaigns on the prevention and elimination of gender violence such as wife battering, rape and child sexual abuse.
• To make women, youths and children discover themselves, their rights in the society, their real potential, their gifts and calling in each sphere of life.

VISION:-
• Our desire is to see positive changes in the lives of abused women and children and the society at large, thereby contributing our quota towards nation building and capacity/potential utilization.

V. WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED SO FAR? (IN SUMMARY)
PROJECT REPORT 1
PROJECT NAME: Lend a hand project. For the children of an Orphanage home called the Anawim centre, home of the poorest of the poor, in Gwagwalada area council, Abuja, Nigeria.
PARTICIPANTS: Members of the Anawim home, Members of ievawc.
DATE: 16th December, 2006.
OBJECTIVES: To reach out to children in the orphanage home where most are products of gender violence, such as unwanted teenage pregnancies and rape.

PROJECT REPORT 2
PROJECT NAME: Teach them young project. For students of Star International school in Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigeria
PARTICIPANTS: Eighty eight (88) students from sss 1 to sss 3, the Principal and few Teachers of the school. Members of IEVAWC
DATE: 15th February, 2007.
OBJECTIVES: To reach out to teenagers in secondary schools where most are likely to have experienced gender violence such as sexual harassment and rape
PROJECT REPORT 3
PROJECT NAME: Teach them young project. For pupils of holy Trinity school in Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigeria
PARTICIPANTS: Forty Two (42) Pupils from Primary 4 to Primary 6, Few Teachers of the School, Members of IEVAWC
DATE: 08th August, 2008.
OBJECTIVES: To reach out to children in primary schools where most are likely to have experienced or witnessed gender violence such as child sexual abuse and wife battering.
PROJECT REPORT 4
PROJECT NAME: Teach them young project. For pupils of Suzz Tenderly primary school in Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigeria.
PARTICIPANTS: Sixty Nine (69) Students from Primary 4 To 6, Few Teachers of the School, Members of IEVAWC
DATE: 15th August, 2008.
OBJECTIVES: To reach out to pupils in primary schools where most are likely to have experienced or witnessed gender violence such as child sexual abuse and wife battering.
PROJECT REPORT 5
PROJECT NAME: Teach them Young Project. For Pupils of Phase 3 Primary School in Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigeria
PARTICIPANTS: Fifty Six (56) Pupils of Primary 6a, B & C, Few Teachers of the School, Members of IEVAWC
DATE: 25th September, 2008.
OBJECTIVES: To reach out to children in primary schools where most are likely to have experienced or witnessed gender violence such as child sexual abuse and wife battering.
PROJECT REPORT 6
PROJECT NAME: A Community Awareness Campaign to Reduce Child Sexual Abuse and the Spread of HIV/ AIDs
PARTICIPANTS: 109 Members of Garki Village Community, Including the Sarki and District Heads, Members of IEVAWC
DATE: 10th December, 2008.
OBJECTIVES: To reduce child sexual abuse in the community to the lowest/ minimum level.
To reduce the spread of HIV/ aids in the community
To enhance peaceful co- existence among all Gender in the community
PROJECT REPORT 7
In the year 2009, The Organization was part of the Development of Sector Plan Stakeholders workshops with Social Development Secretariat (SDS) and UNICEF Consultants. A project aimed at finding lasting solutions to completely eliminate violence against women & child protection in the FCT before the year 2013. With Stakeholder organizations such as NCWS, AMAC, FMOWA, FMOE, etc and other NGOs)
PROJECT REPORT 8
PROJECT NAME: Debate Competition
PARTICIPANTS: 25 Students of All Saints College, Gombe, 25 Students of Government Girls College, Doma, Gombe State, 10 Students of school for the Deaf, Gombe, few teachers of the above schools.
DATE: 18th March, 2010.
OBJECTIVES: To Enlighten Secondary Schools Students on the Dangers and Effects of Violence against Women on them and in the society.
PROJECT REPORT 9
PROJECT NAME: A Community Awareness Campaign to Eliminate Violence against Women
PARTICIPANTS: 326 Members of Tal Community, Including the Hakimin Tal and District Heads, 7 Members of IEVAWC, 15 Members of WRAPA- Billiri Chapter
3 Members of Skills-Fix- Gombe
DATE: 31st March, 2010.
OBJECTIVES: - An awareness campaign on the Elimination of Violence against
Women in the Community
- To reduce the spread of HIV/ AIDS in the
Community
- To encourage and empower rural women on Skills Acquisition
- To enhance peaceful co- existence among all Gender in the community.
PROJECT REPORT 10
The major project carried out by the organization in the year 2011 and 2012 was awareness campaigns/ sensitization through the media houses to promote the existence and activities of the NGO and also seek out to solicit for partnerships with other organizations, and sponsorship, funding and donations from other organizations, corporate bodies or philanthropists.
PROJECT REPORT 11
PROJECT NAME: Tea Party
PARTICIPANTS: 42 Participants (Invited Guests and IEVAWC Members)
DATE: 13th March, 2013.
OBJECTIVES: To appreciate our existing network and to solicit for new partnerships.
VI. WHICH COUNTRIES WE ARE INVOLVED IN?
We are not involved or affiliated with any country yet.

2. STRATEGY
I. THE STRATEGY WE USE.
STRATEGIES:
Our work and involvement in the society is multi-faceted. This is done solely or in partnership with other organizations through the following strategies:-
YOUTH AND EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS:-
- Vocational training on counselling.
- Gender violence, Drugs, teenage pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns through seminars in schools.
- Life skill seminars in schools.

COMMUNITY AWARENESS PROJECTS:-
- Identify needy communities in the area of education and enlightenment on gender violence and health-care delivery (reproductive health), General health issues, HIV/AIDS and support them through community participation initiatives.
- Organize seminars on violence free and sustainable community development.

CONCERTS, GAMES AND SPORTS:-
- Organize concerts and film shows, also games and sports as a way of creating awareness, this serves as an avenue where fun and learning takes place.

II. OUR NETWORK
CISCOPE (Civil Society Coalition for Poverty Eradication), ISC (International Sports Coalition), ALICT, Dreams-alive Project, KEC, 7up Bottling Company.

3. LEADERSHIP
I. THE LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE OF OUR ORGANIZATION. HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE INVOLVED
STRUCTURE:
- Board of Trustees.
- National Office/ Headquarters.
- National Director.
- Coordinators
- Registered Members
- Volunteers
Miss Nabiye Blessing John Tal is the Initiator and Founder of IEVAWC, the Organization at the moment consists of a 5- member Board of Trustees, 7- Executive Members, 20- Registered and Volunteer members.

4. FINANCIAL OVERVIEW
I. HOW IS OUR ORGANIZATION REGISTERED?
The Organization is duly registered as a non-profit, non-governmental organization with the corporate affairs commission (CAC), in Nigeria, with Registration number- CAC/IT/NO/28734. The board of trustees are the highest decision making body of the organization.

II. HOW WE INTEND TO RAISE OUR FUNDS
- Annual dues and registration fees.
- Personal savings/contributions
- Funds realized from workshops, concerts, and the likes are channeled to this project.
- Donations from individuals, friends, Corporate/ Funding Organizations and Donors shall be used judiciously for this project

Nabiye Tal,
Founder/CEO- IEVAWC.
@nabiye, @ievawc

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