What is Violence against Women?
1. Violence against Women is a term used to collectively refer to violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women, i.e., it is gender based.
2. Sometimes considered a hate crime, this type of violence targets a specific group with the victim’s gender as a primary motive.
3. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women states that: “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women” and that “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”
Forms Of Violence
- It can fit into several broad categories which include violence carried out by ‘individuals’ as well as ‘states.’
- Some of the forms of violence perpetrated by individuals are rape; domestic violence; sexual harassment; coercive use of contraceptives; female infanticide; prenatal sex selection; obstetric violence and mob violence; as well as harmful customary or traditional practices such as honor killings, dowry violence, female genital mutilation, marriage by abduction and forced marriage.
- Some forms of violence are perpetrated or condoned by the state such as war rape; sexual violence and sexual slavery during conflict; forced sterilization; forced abortion; violence by the police and authoritative personnel; stoning and flogging.
- Many forms of VAW, such as trafficking in women and forced prostitution are often perpetrated by organized criminal networks.
Extent of the Problem
1. Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.
2. Physical, sexual and psychological violence strikes women in epidemic proportions worldwide. It crosses every social and economic class, every religion, race and ethnicity.
3. From domestic abuse to rape as a weapon of war, violence against women is a gross violation of their human rights.
4. Not only does it threaten women’s health and their social and economic well-being, violence also thwarts global efforts to reduce poverty.
5. According to an article in the Health and Human Rights Journal,regardless of many years of advocacy and involvement of many feminist activist organizations, the issue of violence against women still “remains one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations worldwide.”
6. The violence against women can occur in both public and private spheres of life and at any time of their life span. Many women are terrified by these threats of violence and this essentially has an impact on their lives that they are impeded to exercise their human rights, for instance, the fear for contribution to the development of their communities socially, economically and politically.
7. Apart from that, the causes that trigger ‘VAW’ or ‘gender-based violence’ can go beyond just the issue of gender and into the issues of age, class, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and specific geographical area of their origins.
Tackling the Problem
- Violence is, however, preventable. Although no silver bullet will eliminate it, a combination of efforts that address income, education, health, laws and infrastructure can significantly reduce violence and its tragic consequences.
- First and foremost, abusive behavior towards women must be viewed as unacceptable. Communities need to have an important role in defining solutions to violence and providing support to victims. And men must be engaged in the process too, as agents of change standing alongside women to end violence.
- If the world does not address the issue, it stands to suppress the enormous potential of women and girls. When they feel safe, when they are empowered, women and girls can be game-changers.
Violence against Women as a Public Health Issue
- Importantly, other than the issue of social divisions, violence can also extend into the realm of health issues and become a direct concern of the public health sector.
- A health issue such as HIV/AIDS is another cause that also leads to violence. Women who have HIV/AIDS infection are also among the targets of the violence.
- The World Health Organization reports that violence against women puts an undue burden on health care services, as women who have suffered violence are more likely to need health services and at higher cost, compared to women who have not suffered violence.
- Another statement that confirms an understanding of ‘VAW’ as being a significant health issue is apparent in the recommendation adopted by the Council of Europe, violence against women in private sphere, at home or domestic violence, is the main reason of “death and disability” among the women who encountered violence.
What is Stockholm Syndrome?
- Stockholm syndrome is one of the most fragile mental states that a person can be in where even general behavior may defy logic. It is important to understand that understand that the victim may not be capable of coming out for it by themselves and require a good environment and constant support if one to slowly get free from its grasp.
- Stockholm syndrome is a solution created by mind to escape a hostile environment and as a defense mechanism against further mental trauma. The victim generally relates to the abusive situation as ‘safe’ and everything else as ‘hostile’.
- It is very important to know that like many other states in this case too the victim may have little of less control of how their mind responds to a situation. Considering it as a viral infection would be appropriate.
Breaking the Bondage: How can friends and family help?
- Abstain from creating hostile situations as the first instinct of any person in conflict is to look for a safe place. While a normal person may respond to this by trying to reach out to friends or family for support or by turning to self, a person suffering from Stockholm syndrome will struggle to keep from drifting back to the abusive relationship. This can set recovery back by days or even months.
- Avoid confrontation about the abusive situation. At times it can get really frustrating when the victim continues to support the abuser when others are trying to detach them from him/her. But, whatever may be the provocations or topics at discussion never bring up from the victims side.
- If the victim was involved in a sexually active relationship with the abuser or was sexually abused great care should be taken to avoid any and all forms of sexual advances. This could be from spouse, friends or even being bothered sexually by strangers. Some victims are known to go into violent or agitated response when sexual advances are made; forcing a move or repeatedly making advances can cause the victim to respond as mentioned in 1 which is not desirable.
- Make the victim feel safe around people he/she is with. While most patients act bold most of them need a silent support. One should not actively intervene or disrupt any activity but a smile or a nod can make a great difference. Keep the points in section 1 and do not quit or respond in a hostile manner from the patient rejecting help but stand by and help out.
- Relapsing is a part of the recovery. The victims often tend to relapse at least mentally from time to time and this may set of an alarm. One needs to understand that this is perfectly normal and is very much part of the recovery process.
- The victim may from time to time glorify or support the abuser or their actions verbally or by action. It is crucial that at this stage all forms of against-the-current responses is avoided. Attacking the victims opinion can trigger a defensive behavior and can cause deeper relapse that may not be healthy.
- Ask questions about the relationship and what the victim went through instead. This serves multiple purposes including allowing the victim to feel safe and not threatened while allowing her to re-evaluate the memories and situations. Given enough time and with the right questions one can help him/her see the situation from the right perspective. BUT under no situation should they be challenged or your opinion pushed forth over theirs. Remember that it was not you who was in the situation and you have to help and let them sort through the tangled mental stages.
a) How did you feel when that happened?
b) Why did he/she do that?
c) What made you happy?
d) I understand but why did he/she hurt you?
c) It’s ok, we will see if we can sort all this out. You will be fine right?
8. Great care should be how ever taken not to push ideas using questions, let it be a normal conversation where you are trying to learn about how they feel and help them think from a different perspective.
9. Never lie to the victim about what you are to them, pretences can cause severe issues. If you are a therapist, friend or family act so in full faith. Do not fake your behavior with them just to help the situation or imitate another role unless you have told the person you are doing so. It can make it worse.
10. Help the person avoid extreme emotional or physical stress. Don’t mind cutting down on social, business or other forms of activities which may require them to be in physically or emotionally stressful situations. Keep activities as short as possible.
11. Understand that the recovery is going to totally depend on how the victims feel about themselves, and their future. It seldom have much to do with how they feel about the abuser as once the syndrome breaks (in time) they will see them for what they really are, more
12. Let the victim know how much they mean to you and how much you want them to be happy. It could be the small things, a message left for them, coffee on the bed, a pat on the back, a smile when you know they are having a tough time etc. Even sincere words like ‘I am proud of you’ and ‘I love you’ could mean a lot in this situation. Again great care should be taken to make sure that what you say to them is sincere.
13. Give them opportunities to appreciate things that they love doing. Share a bottle of wine together, a drive alone, coffee or tea, a walk, gossip, hang out with close friends etc. Do not give reasons, push or explain too much just try to share.
14. Have immense patience because at the end of the day the day the recovery is 80% time and 20% the environment. Be patient and genuinely enjoy helping them out. Rest will fall into place.