For those who have forgotten your maths (either because it was such a harrowing experience or you're just too old to remember now), the title of this week's blog is the mathematical sign for 'less than'. Never fear though, this week's post is not a maths lesson (I couldn't give you one of those, even if I tried!)
Monday the 25 November marked the beginning of 16 days of action to highlight violence against women and I heard a news report on Monday about the red shoe campaign in Italy. Each pair of red shoes symbolises a woman who has died as a result of violence against women. They showed over 100 pairs of shoes. That's over 100 women who have died at the hands of a partner or ex partner. That's over 100 women whose lives, hopes and dreams have been brought to a violent and premature end. That's over 100 women whose voices will not be heard, who will no longer be able to make a difference in the world around them. Women whose lives had value and who were created to be significant.
As I listened to the report, the phrase 'less than' kept reverberating in my head. When abusers use emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or physical violence, it is because fundamentally, they believe that the victim is 'less than'. In the mind of the abuser, she is to be dominated and controlled. She is less than them, less than a person, less than human. Therefore, it seems quite reasonable to them, to use power and control tactics to get her to behave in the way that they would like. And in the case of the 2 women a week, who die as a result of domestic violence, these tactics do, on occasion have fatal consequences for the victim.
Working as a coach, with women who are still in an abusive relationship means that sooner or later, I will have to do something that can be both shocking and frightening for most victims of domestic abuse. I have to talk to them about a safety plan. A safety plan is just what it says on the tin. It's the plan that the victim needs, in order to keep herself safe (as far as possible) in the abusive situation that she is in. I know some of you are probably thinking "forget the safety plan, just leave!" The truth is, a large proportion of the women who are killed, are killed either at the point they are leaving or after they have left. So leaving an abuser is not as safe as you might think.
Talking to victims about a safety plan can be both shocking and frightening, because it means that they can no longer avoid facing the reality of the fact that not only are they in an abusive relationship; it is potentially a relationship that could kill them. I think you can understand why that's not a reality that anyone really wants to face.
Between now and the 10 December, when the 16 day period ends, there will be lots of campaigns, lots of news and lots of awareness raising going on about violence against women. I'm not expecting that everyone will rush out and start a campaign or even join one. You don't have to. Given the fact that violence against women affects about 1 in every 4 women, there's probably someone much closer to home, who could do with your help. I used to think, people didn't get involved because they didn't know about the violence. Whilst I think that's still true in some cases, I think a lot of us don't get involved because we don't know what to do. We hear the screams, we see the bruises, but we're afraid of being called a busybody or of saying or doing the wrong thing. But one thing we can all do, is listen. Listen without judgement or imposing our own ideas on the victim. Trust me, there's nothing you could say that she hasn't thought of or said to herself a million times over. Just listen and be ready to offer the help that she asks for, when she needs it.
When I work on a safety plan, I always secretly wish that I didn't have to. I wish that the abuser would see what they are doing, seek help and stop the abuse. Sadly, that doesn't happen very often. So I keep on with the safety planning, because her safety is more important than my discomfort.
Are you or have you experienced abuse in your relationship? Would you like to speak to someone in confidence? Contact us through the website or call today on +234 706 335 0864.
Until next week, go well.