Women condone violence against other women
Whenever I think of gender abuse, the first image that comes to mind is that of a man abusing a woman. It has never occurred to me to wonder about where women stand on the issue of abuse.
A couple of weeks ago, at Dardashat, we tried to explore the issue of “value systems”. Lately, I am convinced that, in Jordan, we have a “crisis of values”. Anyway, we came up with different controversial scenarios and got our youth to analyze them in groups… we, then, chose some scenarios to be discussed in public. One of the scenarios was about a young woman whose brother sees her talking to a guy at the university. He starts watching her, only to discover that there is a platonic love relationship going on there. The scenario is complex, but it ends with the brother losing his temper one day and beating his sister brutally. A hypothetical scenario that is inspired by real life stories we deal with every now and then.
What I found interesting was that there was a lot of division in the group on the issue of abuse… some thought it was acceptable and some did not… but what I found fascinating was a comment by a young man telling us that most women in that group condoned the violence that took place in the scenario. They thought the girl deserved it… The student felt that women were harsher in their judgment than men. Many reasons were given, including respect, betrayal, family values, culture, traditions…needless to say, it was a thought provoking session.
The comment was casual, I did not expect it to linger…but it stuck in my head…day in and day out, it came back to me…it almost felt as if the comment dislodged a pebble that was buried deep in my subconscious… and for two weeks, I have had the strangest feeling that I was trying to remember something, but was not sure exactly what it was.
It hit me yesterday… a realization that is… women do condone violence against other women. For thousands of years, Mothers and sisters were standing by watching their daughters and sisters suffer abuse in silence. Many did not do anything to change it, some could not do anything to change it. However, some go as far as condoning it. I found an online study that shows that 42% of Qatari women condoned domestic violence in 2007. I found another study that shows that 87% of women condoned domestic violence in Jordan in 2004…. I guess Emad Hajjaj was as shocked by the numbers that he created a cartoon about it. There is an improvement… but the numbers are still staggering.
Before delving into exploring real stories I would like to pose a question to a few women around me… do women condone violence against other women? And if so, why do they? In a state of no rights, where people grow up in a culture and education system that does not promote the the respect of human rights… and where, the louder you are, the stronger you are, the more right you are.
“In some cases, women deserve the punishment, therefore other women ignore the punishment.”
“They condone violence, because they are used to it”
“Fear of divorce or scandal. Women often don’t have a place to do and so chooses not say anything”
“women often justify violence against other women. It really depends on the culture. But most probably violence is accepted”
“ I would not condone it, I would fight it, because my brother makes mistakes too.”
“women feel that it is the man’s right to beat the woman”
“Women let it happen, don’t try to stop it out of fear, they feel that if something similar happens to them, no one will defend them, so they accept their fate silently.”
In this context, I would like to share the stories of two women… Let’s call them Nina and Salma. (Some of the facts in the stories were changed in order to protect their identities) I shared these stories in different contexts before, however they come to mind to make a point.
Nina is an old friend. She is someone who played a key role in my life around 10 to 15 years ago. Nina grew up in the US. When she hit a certain age, the family decided to come back to Jordan. She was a very free spirited person. However there was some mysterious darkness about her. We were close friends, and the more I knew her, the more I realized there was something I could not understand… one day she told me her life was in danger, I immediately assumed she was seeking attention, she was the type. But she showed me bruises all over her body.
I pushed her to tell me what was going on, and she admitted that her maternal grandfather was sexually abusing the girls in the family. The thing is, it was a dark secret that was known to every family member but no one spoke about it. When Nina became restless and could not shut up anymore, her mother decided it was time to shut her up. At some point, the mother was asking her brothers to kill her in order to preserve “the family honor”. Nina had enough wit to save her own and her sister’s life…They survived that difficult patch and ended up leaving the country with the support of many good individuals. Nina’s relationship with their family has been sour ever since her mother tried to get rid of her.
Nina’s mother is a woman who stood by watching her daughter being abused by her father in silence… she did not only try to stand up for or stop it, but she tried to shut her up in order not to stop it herself. In the process of leaving the country, Nina was consulting a counselor. In one of the visit he told us something I thought was interesting. “Most probably the mother was abused herself, he could not stop it as a girl and so she accepted it in silence, in her mind she wonders if I could accept it, why can’t my daughter?” in another session, he addressed Nina’s anger towards her mother by explaining that the mother did not hate her, she wanted to get rid of her, because she could not deal with her own failure to protect her….
Salma’s mother on the other hand moved heaven and hell to protect her daughter from a similar fate. Salma’s brother was fiddling with her mobile phone when he found a message that he could not fathom…it was from a man! In the absence of the father, the brother went to his uncles to rally them to protect the “family honor”. The mother told the family that she would burry them one by one, starting with the brother if they went as far as touching one hair on her daughter’s head. Salma survived. The family could not commit their heinous crime against the daughter because of the mother. They could not dare.
Truthfully, I believe self preservation; fear and other complex feelings kick in to stop women from protecting their womenfolk. However, I also think that sometimes women feel that these crimes are justified. I believe that number of crimes would definitely decrease if women stopped condoning crimes and started standing up for themselves and their daughters and sisters.
On that note, I leave you in peace… and the hope that we, women, would be grated enough wisdom to admin our weakness and enough strength to change them.