The abuse of women and children continues to be a blight in society. The annually recognised international (16) days of Activism against the Abuse of Women and Children span from the 25th of November (which is the International Day of No Violence against Women) to the 10th of December (International Human Rights Day) for fostering awareness of the range and scope of abuse suffered globally by women and children, and the significance of ensuring it is annihilated. The widespread reach of these injustices, cutting across factors such as race, status and education level, highlights the continued need for people to better understand and recognise the grave adversities experienced by sufferers and survivors by virtue of abuse.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a form of abuse stemming from the oppression of another person based on perceived superiority from a physical and/or social advantage. It is an overriding element in the abuse of women and children, where offenders choose to manipulate and exploit gender dynamics as the basis for their cruelty. This subject has been given greater attention regionally following reports of gruesome and fatal stories of GBV. The most alarming part still, is that because of the pervasive nature of this abuse, many victims feel isolated and continue to remain in abusive environments. Counselling services become crucial for survivors, many of whom blame themselves or justify the behaviour of their abusers. There is no defence for the abuse of women and children, no excuse can be allowed to condone such actions. The beliefs of the past, instilled by patriarchal societies whose traditional customs were more-often-than-not customised to the benefit of men, need to evolve to generate a gender equal society going forward.
A premise of abuse is to heal one’s victim after having inflicted harm. In so doing, the shallow ‘healing’ becomes a reset button. This is an aspect of abuse that keeps the sufferers within its cycle – the misperception that the nursing back to health is an expression of affection. To pick someone up after having beat them down does not negate the fact that your actions put them down there in the first place. An abusive show of power, apparent through financial, emotional, physical, or sexual domination over another based on gender, cannot be forgiven with empty gestures that serve as much function as a plaster would on a stab wound. It is an insincerity that only serves to manipulate the victim into an extended state of pliability. International statistics indicate that on average it can take a victim seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship before they muster the strength to leave for good.
An important fact is that the abuse of women has direct impacts on children. Exposure to abuse during the formative childhood years, when the foundation for our perceptions and attitudes are formed, affects social and mental understandings of acceptable behaviour. Let us not forget that, regardless of cultural backgrounds (patriarchal or otherwise), it is not all men that believe their gender is an innate excuse to abuse. Many GBV perpetrators are demonstrating the ripple effects of the experiences and exposures of their own upbringing. The impacts of abuse of children, if not addressed and rehabilitated, can pass on generationally; thus sadly, the wheel spins on.
Keeping in mind that we continue to live in a predominantly patriarchal society where masculinity becomes a tool to exercise power, the use of masculinity by some to manipulate and dominate others can no longer be the standard. Activism on issues about the abuse of women and children promotes and enables education of each other, particularly our young men and boys who we need to stand united with women and children. The punishments handed down must serve as deterrents to abusers, especially with regards to the abuse of children who are the most innocent and defenceless of us all. The repercussions and social condemnation of GBV need to be harsh and be enforced. Women and children are the backbone and future of all society. Let us cherish, love and protect each other to assure that tomorrow becomes a safer day.