Thankful…For What?

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It’s Thanksgiving. What do I got to be thankful for? Another year of abuse from a man who’s no good? Should I be thankful that I lost another baby cause he knocked me about and that child going to see its father beat its mother like other kids do? Should I be thankful I’m still alive while there a lots of people, my sister included who died from COVID? Should I be thankful that I got a place to live and there’re so many homeless people out there? Should I be thankful that I don’t have to explain the bruises on my arms and legs because I don’t go anywhere for people to see them? Should I be thankful that I’m going to have a nice turkey dinner which I made even though I’m sore all over because of beating because there are people out there who don’t have a turkey to eat or anything to eat at all? Should I be thankful that my husband enjoyed my turkey dinner even though I couldn’t eat anything because I didn’t have an appetite? I sat there watching him stuff his face wishing he’d choke on a bone or something.

What should I be thankful for on the day when everyone is giving thanks? I guess I’m thankful when he’s passed out from all that beer he been drinking. Now, I can grab my suitcase which is already packed and get the hell out of here. I’m thankful that I can go to a shelter where I will feel safe. I’m thankful that I don’t have to stay here and take any more abuse. Yes, I have something to be thankful this Thanksgiving. I’m thankful that I can leave this monster I been married to for ten years.

This story is fiction but there are so many women out there who are victims of abusive relationships and sadly, many of them don’t leave. According to Institute For Family Studies, they stay for these following reasons:

1. Distorted Thoughts. Being controlled and hurt is traumatizing, and this leads to confusion, doubts, and even self-blame. Perpetrators harass and accuse victims, which wears them down and causes despair and guilt.3 For example, women shared: “I believed I deserved it,” and, “I was ashamed, embarrassed, and blamed myself because I thought I triggered him.” Others minimized the abuse as a way to cope with it, saying: “[I stayed] because I didn’t think that emotional and financial abuse was really abuse. Because words don’t leave bruises,’’ and, “Because I didn’t know what my boyfriend did to me was rape.”

2. Damaged Self-Worth. Related was the damage to the self that is the result of degrading treatment. Many women felt beaten down and of no value, saying: “He made me believe I was worthless and alone,” and, “I felt I had done something wrong and I deserved it.”

3. Fear. The threat of bodily and emotional harm is powerful, and abusers use this to control and keep women trapped.4 Female victims of violence are much more likely than male victims to be terrorized and traumatized.One said: “I was afraid of him…I knew he’d make leaving an ugly drawn out nightmare.” Attempting to leave an abuser is dangerous. One woman felt trapped because of her husband’s “threats of hunting me down and harming all my loved ones including our kids while I watched and then killing me.”

4. Wanting to be a Savior. Many described a desire to help, or love their partners with the hopes that they could change them: “I believed I could love the abuse out of him.” Others described internal values or commitments to the marriage or partner, with tweets like: “I thought I would be the strong one who would never leave him and show him loyalty. I would fix him and teach him love.” Others had pity and put their partner’s needs above their own: “His father died, he became an alcoholic and said that God wouldn’t want me to leave him because he needed me to make him better.”

5. Children. These women also put their children first, sacrificing their own safety: “I was afraid if he wasn’t beating me he would beat his kids. And I valued their lives more than my own.” And, “I stayed for 20 years while I protected our children, all while I was being abused.” Others mentioned staying to benefit the children: “I wanted my son to have a father.”

6. Family Expectations and Experiences. Many posted descriptions of how past experiences with violence distorted their sense of self or of healthy relationships: “I watched [my dad] beat my mom. Then I found someone just like dad,” or, “Because raised by animals, you partner with wolves.” Some mentioned family and religious pressures: “My mother told me God would disown me if I broke my marriage.”

7. Financial Constraints. Many referred to financial limitations, and these were often connected to caring for children: “I had no family, two young children, no money, and guilt because he had brain damage from a car accident.” Others were unable to keep jobs because of the abuser’s control or their injuries, and others were used financially by their abuser: “[My] ex racked up thousands of debt in my name.”

8. Isolation. A common tactic of manipulative partners is to separate their victim from family and friends. Sometimes this is physical, as one woman experienced: “I was literally trapped in the backwoods of WV, and he would use my little boy to keep me close.” Other times isolation is emotional, as one woman was told: “You can either have friends and family or you can have me.”

Yesterday, Thursday, November 25 was Thanksgiving in America. Many people celebrated this festive holiday with their loved ones. The day also marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This year’s theme was Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now! Why Orange? It represents a brighter future free of violence against women and girls.  According to the UN, Nearly 1 in 3 women have been abused in their lifetime. In times of crises, the numbers rise, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and recent humanitarian crises, conflicts and climate disasters. A new report from UN Women, based on data from 13 countries since the pandemic, shows that 2 in 3 women reported that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence and are more likely to face food insecurity. Only 1 in 10 women said that victims would go to the police for help.

The UN believes that gender-based violence can and must be stopped. And this begins with believing the survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches which will tackle the root causes, transform harmful social norms and empower women and girls. “With survivor-centred essential services across policing, justice, health, and social sectors, and sufficient financing for the women’s rights agenda, we can end gender-based violence.

Let’s join the UN and other organizations in their fight to eliminate violence against women. Everyone is entitled to live a life free of abuse.

Source: United Nations

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