Violence against women 101

Today, I read a thread of tweets by @DarkCityJane explaining violence against women. It was, for me, this thing of seeing everything I have ever wanted to say in one place. Brilliant. 

I asked her if I could use it as a resource, she consented and here we are. If you’d like to see her brilliance on her TL, you can find that here – and this is the thread about Violence Against Women. 

So below, I present to you this most crucial thing – a VAW primer. Extensive, comprehensive, exhaustive, and very very important. 

I thank @DarkCityJane so much for her generosity of spirit in allowing me to share this with you. We know about violence against women. The Aunties are all about making better the lives of women who have lived in violence. But it’s not just about that. And there’s more we can do. 

 

I want to clarify that VAW, while certainly including physical violence, is not limited to just physical violence. Violence against women is a plague that threatens us everywhere. It affects every woman I have ever known or spoken to.

VAW is not a literal term that describes just hitting women. It’s about causing them harm. That’s a big difference. Harm comes in many ways. Violence against women is a problem. Full stop. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other problems, it means violence against women is a problem.

Women make up half the population. It’s absolutely reasonable to take time to discuss issues that affect us directly in such a profound way. Women are people who identify as women. Some of us have a harder time than others. It’s not only okay, but important to acknowledge that. Women are not commodities to be enjoyed by people. We are actually whole, complete people who can make our own decisions & enjoy ourselves.

VAW is a blanket term, but it does not specify any particular action or series of actions. There are many types of VAW. VAW is an important, dangerous, traumatizing thing that causes more damage than you can imagine. We need to take it seriously. Women everywhere are regularly harassed, threatened, abused, stalked, raped, and killed, just for existing. Their stories are countless.

VAW includes emotional and mental abuse that is inflicted on women. VAW includes harassment and verbal abuse. Online harassment and abuse are also VAW. Creating multiple accounts on social media for the specific purpose of harassing or threatening women is VAW.

Verbal abuse includes comments meant to cause mental or emotional distress. Threatening to rape someone is verbal abuse. Threatening to kill someone is verbal abuse. VAW includes harmful rhetoric that leads to the oppression of women and violence against them. VAW includes sexual harassment and victim blaming. VAW includes institutionalized sexism that is harmful to women.

VAW includes rape. Rape includes violent force, coercion, guilt, or continuing after previous consent has been rescinded.

VAW includes treating trans women as anything but women.

VAW includes racism against WoC.

VAW includes using a disabled woman’s disability to control her in any way, whether it be her feelings, actions, or anything else.

VAW includes gaslighting. Attempting to or successfully making a woman believe she has a mental illness or deficiency is an evil act. Women have historically been called mentally ill for saying & doing things that men don’t like. This is still happening & it needs to stop.

Women are frequently told we’re unreasonable for being afraid of or angry about VAW. Let me correct you. We are being completely reasonable. There is nothing more reasonable than reacting with fear & anger toward something that can only be reasonably perceived as war against us.

VAW includes emotional manipulation. Using our empathy or fear to force us into situations that we don’t want to be in is unreasonable and cruel. VAW includes telling women how they are expected to feel, think, or behave, then punishing them cruelly if they disagree or don’t comply.

VAW includes any action, reaction, or statement that is meant to cause fear or pain.

Claiming we aren’t allowed to fix VAW because “Women elsewhere have it worse” is complete bullshit. It’s an unacceptable silencing tactic. Problems in other places do not erase problems here. Other people’s experiences do not invalidate anyone else’s experiences.

VAW includes asking invasive, unwelcome, unreasonable, & unnecessary questions so as to invalidate women’s claims or cause them distress.

VAW includes forcing women into situations where they are uncomfortable or afraid in any way.

VAW includes unwanted physical contact, be it sexual or otherwise.

Overt abuse is not the only thing people can do to promote VAW. It’s often much more subtle. Casual sexism and misogyny both promote and perpetuate rape culture and the systematic oppression of women. Casual sexism and misogyny include, but are not limited to: Jokes & comments. Regular treatment of family, friends, coworkers, etc.

Women are taught to expect and even crave/enjoy/appreciate VAW from a very early age. It’s heartbreaking and incredibly disturbing. Little girls on playgrounds are told that when a little boy throws rocks at or kicks her, it means he likes her. When girls and young women are catcalled and harassed by men, they are told those men like them and just want attention. When women are abused by their partners, they’re told that he’s just jealous and is doing it because he loves her so much.

VAW isn’t normal, it isn’t acceptable, it isn’t a show of affection, &it isn’t out of our control. We can control ourselves & be respectful. VAW is often used to “keep women in line”, but we are not your pets who need training. We are people. Women are not required to adhere to any specific ideals in order to deserve respect, civility, and safety. VAW affects all types of women. Despite what some people think, equality doesn’t have anything to do with violence. You may not hit a woman who wants equality.

 

If you’ve never caused or helped to cause VAW, that’s great! If you’re a woman who’s never had to deal with or experience VAW, that’s fantastic! But neither of those things negate the very real issue of VAW. Your experiences to not change or negate the reality of others. Lack of awareness contributes to VAW being an issue. We all have a lot to learn. Please take initiative for the sake of all women.

Ignoring VAW does not make it less frequent. On the contrary, it allows it to continue unchallenged. It makes it easier. Spreading awareness of VAW is not automatically placing all the blame for it on men. If you are a man and you think blame for VAW is being put on you, take a step back and ask yourself why this feels personal to you. If people speaking about VAW makes you uncomfortable or angry, I think you should examine your motives and behaviour. A woman on Twitter talking about how we shouldn’t oppress and harm women shouldn’t be a controversial thing. Please don’t make it one. To effectively end VAW, societal behaviour changes are necessary. We need to stop making excuses for VAW. We need to stop victim blaming. Ending VAW will change power structures. Men need to learn how to share. Don’t like it? Too bad. Sharing is caring.

If you don’t participate in VAW and you aren’t a woman, this is still about you. VAW affects just about everyone. Not actively participating in VAW isn’t good enough. You need to stop it when you see it. It is always a big deal. We all need to examine our motives & behaviour. We need to critically think about what we’ve been taught & how we treat women. Each of us needs to do everything in our power to end VAW. We need to admit when we’re wrong, apologize, and learn. We need to unlearn everything we were taught that justifies or encourages VAW. We need to help each other do that. We need to stop VAW when we see it, whether it’s online or in person. We need to understand this can’t continue. We need to talk about it. VAW is an incredibly complex issue that appears in different ways across most races, cultures, societies. It’s our job to fix it. All of us.

If VAW wasn’t such a large and widespread problem, we wouldn’t need to talk about it all the time. So here’s an idea: If talking about violence against women makes you feel uncomfortable, then help fix the problem so we don’t need to talk about it anymore.

The short and long term effects of VAW range anywhere from frustration and fear to PTSD, suicide, homicide, and more. People affected by VAW aren’t just the women who are targets. It can affect their family, friends, and work relationships as well. There are women in your life who have been affected by VAW. Ask them openly what it’s like, if they’re willing to discuss it. You may be surprised to find out how much stress, fear, and anger is a regular part of many women’s lives.

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