As we relaxed at home watching our favourite series; as we enjoyed the company of friends over a delicious meal; as we delighted in squeals of laughter while playing with our children; as we bent over our laptops finishing our latest work assignment – a young woman was murdered.
We do not know how or why, but we do know it is one too many. Again, we cry for answers, we cry for justice, we cry for an end to violence against women. But it continues – silently, secretively, sometimes openly and deadly. No one is immune – not mothers, not highly regarded professionals, not beauty queens, not college graduates. We would like to think that gende-based violence is less pervasive than it is, but the death of Kimberly Fleming, a young mother, daughter, aunt, cousin and friend, has disrupted our slumber and opened our eyes to the grim reality faced by women in our society.
While the circumstances surrounding Kimberly’s death are unknown, many women in our society are in situations in which their lives are at risk. We greet them in the supermarket, they are our colleagues in the workplace, we sing with them in church. Yet, in many instances unknown to us, they are trapped in abusive relationships with their partners. Persons who have never been in abusive relationships often do not understand the psyche or cycle of abuse. Such persons often wonder why the abused person just doesn’t leave the relationship. In addition to their own fear, this way of thinking also discourages abused persons from coming out and telling someone about the abuse or trying to get help. Simply put, they do not want to be judged.
The reality of abuse is that it is an inside job – meaning that the abuser gets into the head of the abused, diminishes their self-worth, convinces them that they would be nothing without the abuser – and makes them totally reliant on the abuser for a sense of worth. It is this mental and emotional control that often results in abused persons remaining in abusive relationships.
I applaud the efforts of the many organisations which have sought to bring attention to this national scourge: the Ministry of Social Development and Education, the Soroptimist Club of Anguilla, Hats N Heels, the National Council of Women, to name a few. Over the years there have been many individual local champions in the fight, and their efforts must also be commended. While some persons have lamented that the focus of campaigns against domestic violence in particular has traditionally been on violence against women, without acknowledging that men are also sometimes victims of abuse, there have been efforts to ensure that the messaging also addresses the latter.However, though we acknowledge that men can also be victims of violence, let us not detract from the reality that most victims of gender-based violence in Anguilla, and around the world, are women. When we think back on the homicides in Anguilla, over the past fifty years, how many men can we think of who were murdered at the hands of women? Now consider that same question in relation to women murdered at the hands of men? The difference should be obvious.
We have a societal problem. The more we remain silent, the more difficult it is to eradicate. We must shine a light on it and not allow it to fester and multiply under the cover of darkness or the cloak of our silence. I am willing to take a stand against violence against women. Are you?