Culture is No Excuse for Abuse

What can we do to fight the abuse of women?

By Janice Kovach, Mayor of Clinton, New Jersey

 

How many times does a young woman ask why her body’s only value is the honor that it brings to her family? Who determines that I am less because I am a female? Who determines what will or will not be done to my body?

Why am I the one who is abused? Did I deserve it? Why was I sexually assaulted? Did I do something to provoke it?

These are questions whispered quietly when no one is listening – around the world, in our communities and, sadly, in our homes.

We are in the midst of an epidemic but too many people turn a blind eye. We fear that we will be perceived as racist. We fear what we don’t know. We are socially and morally blind, apathetic to the plight of so many.

Have you ever walked past a woman who may have had visible bruises? What did you think? What did you do? What would you do if you knew a woman was being abused? Sadly, too many of us do nothing.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of women and girls are at risk – not just across the globe but right here in the United States, in New Jersey and in our communities. The numbers are based on published reports and information – how much higher are the numbers for what is not reported?

I understand abuse – the abuse of power in a relationship meant to nurture and protect but, instead, was years of emotional abuse and alienation. I understand that I didn’t deserve to have what should have been a loving relationship become a controlling relationship.

I understand the abuse that an adult can perpetrate on a child – and the shame that comes with it.  When a trusted friend betrays the innocence of a child.

I have spent the last ten years working with many organizations that provide the support and, in some cases, protection for many women who could not find it within their own families. I have listened to so many stories and yet my heart breaks each time I hear a new one because I know firsthand how it feels to be that person.

Silence is not an option.

Cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable.

It is not a part of culture, tradition or religion to abuse anybody.

We must stand up against this abuse.

What can we do?

  • Stepping in when your first inclination is step away
  • Advocate for legislation that can protect the victims and help them become survivors

Join me, and refuse to stand by and allow others to experience the degradation and humiliation of abuse. We can be a voice for those that have been silenced. We can be a voice for those that cannot speak for themselves or their daughters.

The apathetic attitude toward violence against women and children has been the subject of many conversations. Every year in the USA, we recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness month and every October as Domestic Violence awareness month in the hopes that the message of violence and abuse will not be tolerated. My hope is that we no longer have to recognize such months.

I have three children; my boys are 14 and 15, and my daughter is 27. I hope every day that they never experience what I did and, as much as I want to shield them from the atrocities, I also want them to know that there are so many who need our help, and to recognize that abuse or violence of any kind will not be tolerated.

What we know and what we believe is that any abuse of a woman, a man, or a child is unacceptable. We stand together because we will not remain silent; we will not sit back and say this is not my problem.

Can you imagine a world where women live without discrimination or fear of violence, have chances, choices, and equal voices to make decisions about issues that affect them? I can.