By CARA HUNT
Tribune Features Writer
Yesterday officially launched the start of the “16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls.”
According to the United Nations, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.
The UN considers this to include intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide); sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber-harassment); human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation); female genital mutilation, and child marriage.
From the outside looking it, it may be easy to think victims should simply leave their abusive situations, but crisis experts point out that it takes first takes courage and practical considerations before this can happen.
Zonta executive Marissa Smith explained that a good exit has to be planned before a woman leaves.
“First she has to come to that decision for herself that she has had enough of this – enough for herself and for her family. That is a decision that requires boldness and courage. And once she has come to that decision for herself then she needs to come up with an exit plan,” said Ms Smith.
“It is very important that she knows exactly how and when she will do this. And we always suggest that she has a transitional friend, someone she can trust and respect, who she can get advice from and share what is going on with. The important thing to remember when she is considering leaving is that there are avenues available to help – organisations such as Zonta and the Bahamas Crisis Centre, and local churches and counsellors.”
Ms Smith stressed that anyone who feels that their life may be threatened should seek police protection and assistance.
It can be very painful to watch a family member or friend live in an abusive situation, but Kandi Gibson founder of Family of All Murder Victims (FOAM) told Tribune Woman the most important thing you can do is to assure them of your love without judgement.
“You cannot force anyone to do anything that they do not want to do. But also you can’t tell someone to do something that they can’t do realistically or financially.
“For example, you may say to a woman, ‘Just leave’. But if she is in a relationship where her partner pays all the bills, she may not have anywhere that she can go or would want to go; she may not have the money to actually leave her home – bus or taxi fare,” she said.
Ms Smith said it is important that the solutions are practical.
“If you are going to make suggestions or offer to help, then also be prepared to come up with practical ideas. You can say, ‘Do you know that this place is a safe house’ or ‘Here is an option where you can get a place to stay and I can take you’ or ‘You can stay with me; let me take you to a counsellor’. But most importantly, assure her that you will be there with her every step of the way. Let her know that she is not alone, no matter what.”
And while Ms Smith emphasised that no one in a relationship has the right to abuse another person, the bold choice to leave the situation does not come without risks and drama.
“You need to know the truth about the repercussions leaving or reporting can have and try to address that, because sometimes when you report this person they have so much hate in their heart it could make a bad situation worse, and you need to prepare for that as well,” she said.