|Understanding Violence Against Women - A Guide for Media (CMFR - UNFPA, 1998, 31 p.)|
Women are specially vulnerable to violence because of their dependency on men, which is frequently economic and is the result of various layers of discrimination. Much of womens work is unpaid labor at home and in the fields which is not valued by society nor calculated as part of the GNP or productive work of a nation. Women are trained to believe that their value is attached to the men in their lives - fathers, brothers, husbands and sons - and often they are socially ostracized if they displease or disobey them. Women are educated to view their own self-esteem as linked to the ability to satisfy the needs and desires of others, and thus, see themselves as inadequate or bad if men beat them.
Even more insidious is the view that survivors of domestic violence or sexual harassment who choose to remain with abusive partners or in risky situations have no one to blame but themselves. Why doesnt she just leave? is a commonplace comment But womens socio-economic and psychological dependency makes it difficult for them to leave situations of domestic violence or sexual harassment. Often in rural settings it is physically impossible for women to leave as they literally have no place to go or the means to get away, and there are no services available to them. And if a woman has very young children, whatever decision she makes will impact not just on her, but also on her childrens future. She may choose to stay with the devil she knows - where she can at least find economic security - rather than risk everything with the devil she does not know, such as homelessness which does not guarantee her or her childrens safety, either.
And what kind of a society is this where abused women are counselled to stay and preserve the family unit despite regular battering, condemned or pitied when they leave, or ridiculed if they return or choose to stay?