I called a feminist friend of mine, Hadiya*, 10 minutes ago to inform her that yesterday was the International Day to End Violence Against Women. I was so excited to tell her all about the great job UN Women were doing on Twitter – tackling abuse against women on all levels, be it emotional, sexual, domestic, intimate, or physical (See this updateable Moment on my Twitter account, dubbed Women, Identity, Sexism, & Racism, where I curated some of these tweets using the hashtags: #orangetheworld #16days #MeToo #Handmaidstale).
Hadiya is a writer, poet, newspaper columnist, and a controversial feminist figure in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. She became a feminist exactly because she was in an abusive marriage that lasted a long 21 years of her life.
That’s why it took me by surprise when she didn’t have the farthest clue that yesterday marked the International Day to End Violence Against Women! It also surprised me even more that she sounded like she was waiting for the conversation’s punchline, as if inquiring why in the world was I sharing this with her!
This is the same woman who used to go into fits of anger whenever the issue of domestic abuse surfaced in any conversation, cursing under her breath, and trying to muster the power to stay calm and collected.
I think what she is experiencing right now is what every abused woman dreams of: Complete healing and utter transformation!
Our conversation continued to be relaxed and beautiful as she went on to share with me her plans for the rest of the day. And no, she didn’t sound like she was changing the subject, because that would have been evident in her voice.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish the same kind of healing for every woman out there, who has experienced a difficult life, who has been victimised, abused, insulted, stripped of her dignity, or assaulted. From the women of Hollywood, to the homemakers who marry into an abusive family or partner, to the urban and rural women across the world who keep their mouths shut and who live a daily hell in ruthless societies that stigmatise them, instead of the predators who are stripping them of their humanity!
How to End Violence Against Women: Abuse should be a Crime Punishable by Law
This year marks the very first time I’m able to see predatory behaviour from a bird’s eye view.
This year marks the dawning of the realisation that what Hadiya and other women have gone through is a universal issue. Women are victimised on a daily basis across all vocations, and in every corner of the globe. It touches even the most successful and glamourous of us, including the Weinstein-harassed women of Hollywood! Being paralysed by shame is also universal: Feeling that your dignity has been shattered is something a lot of women experience, because why would another human being harm you like that, why would anyone disrespect you when you have respected them back?
I have Trump to thank for this essential transformation in my perspective. The day he won the US elections was an important day in my life, especially after getting away with his “locker-room talk” episode. Thanks to him, the words “Enough is enough” became my personal mantra, helping me to finally stand up to the main predatory figure in my life and to give him a piece of my mind.
And from that day on, a sense of true liberation swept over me, and the fear, shame, and broken self-worth, started to heal.
The interesting thing is, this man, who is ruthless, insensitive, and aggressive, sounded very much like a tiny kitten when I unleashed my anger and stream of consciousness on him.
This experience helped me understand the moral cowardice of predatory people. I realised that they continue leeching on you so long as you are sensitive, polite, considerate, and beautiful.
You need to speak their language to put them in their place! You need to muster the courage to shatter that illusion that they weave around the image they project about themselves, that falsely says they are more powerful than you.
Those people don’t care about human rights, women’s rights, or children’s rights. They don’t give value to civility, refinedness, or cultural sensitivity.
The only thing they respond to is something much more primal than lofty human aspirations and values.
Those types respond to Alpha male power cues, and need to be addressed in a language that they understand, that corresponds with their hostile and aggressive nature.
They need to know (and fear) that their actions will have serious consequences on a very primal and very direct level. They need to know that NGOs, civil society, and even governments aren’t just there to help women run away and hide, but that establishments are going to do the same exact opposite.
Predators need to know that establishments are helping victims stand up to their abusers, empowering them to speak out, and are funding their efforts to go after the predators in their lives with the full force of the law!
The laws need to change in every country and in every corner of the world, so that abusive husbands, partners, bosses, men, and even women, are penalised for their actions.
Abuse should be regarded as a crime that takes its toll on real human souls.
Many countries have safe houses and hotlines to protect women, but that’s not enough! Predators will always continue what they’re doing unless a higher political will regards what they are doing as a serious crime punishable by law.
Victims shouldn’t hide; predators should.
*Hadiya’s name has been changed to respect her privacy.
Illustrated Women Who Can by illustrator and artist Yaansoon