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We’re Not Keeping It in the Family Anymore

25 May 2010 3 Comments

Pillar of Peace: Conflict Transformation
Commentary by Alicia Simoni, Community Manager and Staff Writer

In response to an article I recently wrote—Making Sense of Violence (While Getting a Pedicure)—a thoughtful reader reminded me of the unfortunate reality that violence against women and  “the dedication to keeping family events ‘in the family’ runs through our history.”

I absolutely agree. There is nothing new about violence against women. If it hasn’t existed forever—perhaps men were more willing to acknowledge women as equals when women were priests and the powers that govern the universe were depicted as a goddess rather than a god?—it’s been the reality, everywhere in the world, for centuries.

Currently the United Nations Development Fund for Women estimates that at least one out of every three women in the world will be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. In most cases, the abuser is a member of her own family.

Violence of epidemic proportions prevails but that does not mean that what has been is what will be. (I often remind myself of this.)

Women are refusing to stay silent; to accept that violence is a private matter to be kept “in the family.” We are discovering that beyond the walls of our homes, and outside the familiarity of our culture, we share experiences in common.

“… every night when I close my eyes I can still remember just like it was yesterday. And it is still my nightmare. I am not so sure I can ever be ok with this but it is good to be able to talk about it with those who have experienced what you have.”

I’ve had the privilege of listening as women, around the world, share their experiences of violence. Despite uniquely devastating circumstances, there is so much that is shared—a sense of fear, hopelessness, and retreat. Stories of survival are rarely linear, however so often they are ripe with insight and strength—often times in ways that even the survivor does not realize until after she has spoken.

More than the laws that are passed (as critical as they are), this is what gives me hope: women coming together and raising their voices. Whether it is in the form of public speak-outs, one woman quietly confiding in her best friend, or a group of women coming together online, I believe this is what will eventually bring change.

I consider myself nothing other than lucky that I have made it through 30 years without having been beaten, raped, or otherwise abused. Violence against women should end today—and it should never have existed in the first place—but it won’t end today. It will take a long time before women can bank on something other than luck to be safe. However, small steps—as quiet as a woman whispering to her friend—still constitute real change.

We live in a world where if something can’t be counted—dollars spent, individuals trained, lives saved—it’s not seen as quite real. How does one quantify the impact of one woman being able to say to another:

“My experiences still affect my life today . . . I truly wish there was a button that could erase the memories. Unfortunately, as you know, there isn’t. But, at least we can come together in group settings like this and provide the support we need to each other.”

*     *     *

Want to share your story with other women? Join the Peace X Peace Community. Find other members in a group called “Survivors” who believe that “regardless of what was taken from you in the past, no one can take away your dignity, strength, or courage.” The quotes shared above come from women in that group.

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3 Comments to “We’re Not Keeping It in the Family Anymore”
  1. Mary Ellen Latela says:

    Alicia, this is a great follow-up!

    As you say, it’s not “in the family.” It’s not a secret, yet violence against women – and in front of the children! – seems to be tolerated. There are some strong women on this site and as I am getting to know them a little, I am more and more convinced that united efforts – though far-flung – will make a difference.

    Peace! Mary Ellen.
    I want to write further about religious institutions (where I have some expertise) but I will collect my thoughts.

  2. Donya Hayati says:

    i sometimes feel like i want to shout and let everybody know that this is not easy and shout but inside myself but no one can hear me . but i wished i could say it loud and let the whole world know . that we are fighting the things that makes us feel empty and misreble . and makes us ask WHY? what did i ever do that i diserve this ?
    there is always an answer that i don’t know . we don’t deserve this violence so we souldc fight it .the whole world should know WE WON’T BE SILENT ANYMORE.
    Donya Hayati

  3. irit says:

    As one who is working with women and being a member of women’s site-
    may I invite you to join a campaign for a safe world for women. It will be presented to the UN in 2011. The UN has rules for women, but it doesn’t enforce them on its member governments. We want to change it

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