Reality of gender based violence is complex

Columnist Pamela Ana discusses women in abusive relationships and what resources are available in the Alberni Valley.

Gender based violence affects all. It destroys families, weakens the fabric of society and takes a heavy toll on communities and the economy.

People who live in abusive relationships are more likely to experience low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or PTSD. A reminder to Canadians to take action began Nov. 25 with what is known as the 16 Days of Activism.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender –Based Violence is an international organization evolving from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. These dates were chosen to symbolically link violence against women and human rights, emphasizing such violence is a violation of human rights. Participation is worldwide including over 180 countries, 5,478 organizations, policymakers, government, UN agencies and countless numbers of individuals.

Port Alberni is a participant thanks to the Alberni Community and Women’s Services Society (ACAWS).

Did you notice the purple ribbons lining the boulevard in front of the Catalyst Mill? Each of the 219 ribbons reflect a domestic violence call received by the RCMP between Nov. 1 of last year and Nov. 1 of this year. This number has increased over last year by 60 calls.

These statistics are also lower than the known incidents as many women do not report to the police that they are experiencing domestic violence.

The reality of abuse is complex. Society grapples with the notion that the woman is to blame for their abuse when they choose to stay.  Sadly enough, those abused believe this too. The one thing blame will not do, is change any of this.

Why don’t women just leave?

Many people who do not live with an abusive partner say that if their partner were ever to harm them they would leave. Many women who experience violence remember having the same resolve. There are some serious factors that do weigh on a women’s decision to leave. This is the man she loves or has loved. He may be the father of her children.   Ending an intimate relationship is never easy and even more so when one’s self-confidence has been undermined.

Women fear that no one will believe their partners abuse and/or beat them; the behavior happens ‘behind closed doors’.  Women often discover that many people and agencies trivialize the impact of abuse and no one seems to understand they feel like a prisoner who might be severely injured or die at the hands of the jailer.

Women conclude that since people don’t understand the seriousness of the abuse, they do not support disruption of the family.

Often women are isolated by their partner and lose their support systems. The partner is usually highly possessive and excessively jealous.   They believe they ‘own’ the woman, are entitled to her exclusive attention and/or absolute obedience. The partner knows that if the truth is told, supportive people will urge the women to leave or seek assistance.

Many of the abusive partners become remorseful after being violent.  Since most women believe in committed relationships, building their lives around the relationship, they hope and believe the partner will change.   Women are reluctant to leave when they and their partners are receiving counselling, as they believe profound changes will occur and the abuse will stop.

Even when women decide to the leave, their partners will put up many barricades.   The partners threaten everything from stalking, to seeking custody of the children, to withholding support, interfering with employment, to turn children, friends and family against them, retaliatory suicide or other ways to escalate the violence.

Escalation is also used to coerce the woman into reconciliation or to retaliate for trying to leave. A real fact is; women are killed by their partners.

Leaving an abusive relationship is a process. Most women leave and return several times. The first time may be a test to see if her partner will actually get some help to stop the behaviour.   When the violence occurs again, she may leave to gather more information about available resources.

The next leaving may be about breaking the isolation or gaining financial independence.

The most likely predictor of a woman permanently ‘staying gone’ is whether she has the economic resources to survive on her own. Most women do leave.

If you or someone you know is experiencing an abusive relationship, speak with a doctor (GP), health professional, or therapist/counsellor. ACAWS is a helpful community resource  (250-724-7111).

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