Thursday, 28 November 2019

Women (and children) will survive

At first I was afraid, I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along…..

The well-known song by Gloria Gaynor has become a theme song for many women and children who fell victim to violence at the hands of someone they love.  According to the World Bank, gender-based violence (GBV) or violence against women and girls (VAWG), is a global pandemic that affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime.

The numbers are staggering:
  • 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
  • Globally, 7% of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner.
  • Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
  • 200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting.

In a report, World Bank states that this issue is not only devastating for survivors of violence and their families, but also entails significant social and economic costs. In some countries, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP – more than double what most governments spend on education.

Failure to address this issue also entails a significant cost for the future.  Numerous studies have shown that children growing up with violence are more likely to become survivors themselves or perpetrators of violence in the future.
One characteristic of gender-based violence is that it knows no social or economic boundaries and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds: this issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries.
Decreasing violence against women and girls requires a community-based, multi-pronged approach, and sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders. The most effective initiatives address underlying risk factors for violence, including social norms regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence.  During this period – the 16 days of activism against violence against women and children – we found some helpful hints on personal safety that we want to share with women and children in Tshwane.
Being safe on the street:

  • It is important to trust your intuition -- trust your feelings. If you feel that a situation is not right, move out of the situation.  Your gut feeling is seldom wrong!
  • Be aware of your surroundings. In social situations, be alert to places and situations that make you vulnerable.  Also, always let someone know when and where you will be if you are out.
  • Walk confidently and alertly.  Take care to not walk to close to any side of the sidewalk – rather stay in the middle so you have options when you have to get away!

Being safe when you are out and about:
  • Be responsible for yourself.
  • Have precautions in place when going out – especially if you are alone.
  • Watch how much you drink. 
  • Register your belongings and keep them in the eye at all times.
  • Be extra wary of your car or transport and ask someone to walk with you if you feel unsafe.
  • Keep personal details safe.  

Being safe at home:

  • Create the illusion that someone is at your house. Play loud music or talk radio so that it sounds as if there is a lot of people inside the house.
  • Always make sure all exterior doors have reliable locks and that you know where all your spare keys are.
  • Always look out through a window before opening the door. You never know who is outside, nor if they are alone.
  • Don't leave the keys in obvious locations – try to find places people will not look.

Very few people enjoy conflict, and most people would state that they would prefer to avoid conflict in any way possible. Unfortunately, there are always going to be situations that arise that involve conflict. When you are involved in a verbal confrontation with someone and feel threatened, the most important thing you can do is try to de-escalate the situation so that you can remove yourself before that conflict increases to a dangerous level.
Being approached aggressively or being verbally threatened can be scary, here are some tips on what to do when you are being threatened.
Have Plenty of Patience and Stay Calm

When it comes to de-escalating a conflict, the best “weapon” you have is your patience. Any situation that feels as if it could potentially turn violent requires patience on your part, and careful response so that you do not further agitate the aggressor. Challenging them, retorting with your own threats or engaging them will more quickly lead to a higher level of conflict. On the other hand, your patience can keep the situation much calmer and potentially defuse the attacker and preventing any further action on their part.
Make Eye Contact

Looking away can often be perceived by an aggressor as a sign of fear. Keeping eye contact is a sign of confidence. While you do not want to antagonize someone acting aggressively toward you, you do not want to appear to be an easy victim, either.
Use Closed-Ended Statements

Do not ask questions or engage the aggressor in any way. If you are in an uncomfortable situation and you are being provoked, or verbally abused, the best way to de-escalate the situation is to simply not take the bait, resist the urge to defend yourself verbally, and resist the urge to ask them “why” they are doing this to you or “what” they want. When you make open ended statements, you are inviting additional conversation and giving the aggressor more opportunities to escalate the situation into something even more uncomfortable.
Do Not Fight Back or Become Aggressive

Responding to a threat with another threat is probably the quickest way to escalate a situation. In nearly every situation, the best thing to do is try to remove yourself and get away. Do not become engaged with someone that is being verbally abusive, it can very easily turn into a situation that is physically abusive.
Your personal safety should always be a priority. If you ever find yourself in a situation that is becoming uncomfortable or verbally abusive, you should do everything you can to de-escalate the situation before it becomes violent. An aggressive situation can turn violent very quickly, and with little provocation, and defending yourself from a physical attack is far more difficult than removing yourself from a threatening verbal conflict. Never, ever let an aggressor engage you in the type of verbal conflict that can escalate. It is far better to tolerate the verbal abuse and get away than let it escalate to a point where you become physically attacked, and potentially injured or killed.

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