Violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights violations in our world. A recent survey of 87 countries reports that between 2005 and 2016, 19% of women aged between 15 and 49 experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their partner, some of which led to death.
The United Nations General Assembly has designated the 25th of November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. To coincide with it The Kering Foundation launched a digital campaign – as part of its annual White Ribbon for Women initiative – that began on Monday 20th and ends on the 25th. With the hashtag ICouldHaveBeen, the campaign allows people to share stories in which they imagine how their lives would have changed had they been the victims. The chairman and CEO of Kering Francois-Henri Pinault stated ‘We all could have been born a girl’.
This campaign gave me the opportunity to to ask one of my ex-colleagues about her own experience of abuse. Without wanting to bring back old memories, I stated the importance of more stories being told and she agreed to speak about it provided she could stay anonymous. Her story began 14 years ago when she was only 18 back in Spain, and was seduced by a married man. “Having a relationship in this young age looks amazing. You think you have found your other half,” she told me. This changed when she announced to her boyfriend that she was expecting a baby. “He started fighting with me. To be honest, I don’t even remember what he was saying. I finally got beaten.’’ Even after this incident she decided to give their relationship a chance. “I was loving him a lot and I was looking to find where I was wrong. I was asking every single day if I did something wrong, but he kept saying to me that I am a horrible person. All I knew was that I didn’t deserve that’’ A couple of months after that, and while she was pregnant, three more violent incidents happened. At this point she realised it was time to start thinking about protecting her child.
“Living in a small village was really difficult. You can’t really hide anything from anyone. My parents stopped talking to me because they found out that I had an extramarital relationship. You know… older people always care about what people say.” She then decided to approach one of her close relatives. “My cousin was living here, in London. After I said everything to her, I got the tickets in the next few days. That’s how I am here now: free.”
Fourteen years after she left Spain she is still being contacted by her former abusive partner – which she she has to try hard to ignore. “He is still calling. You can block him, change numbers and yet he will still find a way to contact, even through other people, but it doesn’t matter because I am okay now.” When asked what was the thing that triggered her to seek help she responded: “I was lucky in a sense as I had something that I loved more than him and even myself to worry about. If it wasn’t for my daughter I don’t know where I would be now. I think the most important thing is to find the courage to talk to someone. Either that someone is your cousin, your friend or even your priest at the church, do it. Speak to someone and you will see how your life will turn to the better”.
If you are dealing with domestic violence or know someone who is, these links may be of help:
Photo credit: http://milnerelledge.co.uk/cross-border-protection-victims-domestic-violence/