STOP RAPE AND VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT!
Today I am thinking about how young women use information technologies to share information and knowledge around women's rights. I am holding my smart phone and scrolling through various WhatsApp profile pictures and status statements on the walls of some young Zimbabwean women who are my WhatsApp fans. I am amazed by the levels of consciousness exhibited by these young women through the statements they boldly post for their contacts to see and benefit from. I could write about them all, but will, for purposes of time, only refer to Grace Chirenje's profile poster. Grace Chirenje is one of the youngest women leading a women's NGO in Zimbabwe. She is Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Young Women's Network for Peace-building (ZYWNP). Her profile poster has a poem that reads,
He doesn't have to beat you for it to be abuse
He can degrade,
or try to correct you.
know the signs,
don't be abused!
After reading this poem, I am thinking of many women globally who are sitting in many and different abusive relationships today. These are the lucky ones in fact, because they still sit in the abusive relationships, but many have died or are in the process of dying each and every minute from the consequences of these different forms of abuse. The worst thing is that many of these women do not even know that they are being abused, and therefore will never name it as such until the day their abuser lays flowers on their grave as per norms and expectations of funeral rituals.
What really is abuse, and who should name it as such? How many people know what abuse is, and how many know that they are being abused or that they are abusing others?
A lexicographical ordering of the synonyms of abuse gave me these results: 'misuse', 'misapply', 'mis-employ', 'mishandle', 'exploit', 'perver't. Some short definitions of abuse also came up as: 'take advantage o'f, 'use to bad effect or for a bad purpose'; 'make excessive and habitual use of', 'treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly'. The definitions of abuse are inexhaustible, as many as the cases of abuse themselves. I bring to the reader's attention one that speaks to me most as a woman, which reads, ".....an attempt to control the behaviour of another person. It is a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable." (www.stopitnow.org) According to this site, there are different manifestations of abuse, some of which are:
Physical abuse: This includes pushing, shoving, slapping, kicking, punching, hitting, spitting, pinching, pulling hair, choking, throwing things, hitting victims with an object, and using or threatening to use a weapon.
Sexual abuse: This is forced unwanted sex, demanding the partner wear more (or less) provocative clothing; forced sex in any form; insisting the partner act out fantasies, and denial of the partner’s sexuality and sexual rights, withdrawal of sexual and conjugal rights as a form of punishment.
Verbal abuse: A form of abusive behaviour involving the use of language (criticizing, name-calling, put downs threatening, blaming). It differs from profanity in that it can occur without the use of expletives. Verbal abuse is a pattern of behaviour that can seriously interfere with one’s positive emotional development and over time, can lead to significant detriment to one’s self-esteem, emotional well-being and physical state. Verbal abuse, although not visibly apparent, is damaging nonetheless.
Financial abuse: This occurs when you are not allowed to have money or any control over money. This could include running up large debts in your name or selling your possessions without permission. Your partner may keep you accountable for any money spent, approving or disapproving of your spending. It could also mean you are not allowed to have a job so you are dependent on your partner for money and survival.
Isolation occurs when you are quarantined from your family, friends, and community as a way for your partner to stay in control. Your partner may be extremely jealous of any contacts you have, forbid you to have contact with anyone, or monitor your phone calls, mail or daily activities. Sometimes your partner may use intimidation or threats to control you. You may have to be accountable for your time away or have to make excuses for leaving the home. You may have to communicate secretly when your partner is absent.
Emotional/psychological abuse: This can cause anxiety and depression and cause someone to withdraw from everyone or everything around them. Examples of this type of abuse include insulting one's family or friends, ridiculing their beliefs, race or religion, using constant put downs, threatening suicide if one leaves, keeping one prisoner in the home/house arrest, threatening to take the children if one leaves and threatening to have one deported.
Key facts regarding abuse are that many people who are being abused do not see themselves as victims, they refuse to name it as such and often blame themselves for their suffering whilst upholding their abuser. Rarely will abused people choose to leave their abusers, and they often find justifiable reasons for remaining in these abusive spaces. On the flip-side, many abusers do not see themselves as being abusive, and can abuse those who name them as abusers further. At the same time, people often think of domestic violence as physical violence, such as hitting. However, domestic violence takes other forms, such as psychological, emotional, or sexual abuse. Most of it all, it is the duty of every woman to help others understand what abuse is, as well as to motivate them to name and shame abuse and abusers. I have played my part, play yours!