Sweeping it under the carpet

by Anna Blanch on December 3, 2011

Today’s 16 Days of action post is from Hannah Mudge. This is her second guest post here in as many months. Hannah is thoughtful and considered; she’s also fabulously passionate about women, the church, and talking about things that matter!

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My experience of talking about violence against women and the activism aiming to tackle it is that there are a lot of uncomfortable silences. People give you odd looks; they try to change the subject. They turn it into a big joke – “When’s International Men’s Day, then?” – or they regale you with a “statistic” they’ve heard somewhere (or possibly made up on the spot) – “Did you know that most violence is now committed by women against men?” (yes, this was actually a colleague’s response when I told him what a Reclaim the Night march was). When you say the words “rape”, or “domestic violence” people look even more uncomfortable. They’re not nice things to think about, for a start. Yes, of courseit’s awful, but we don’t need to discuss it, do we? Injustices happening a long way from home are easy to talk about. They’re also easy to accept, to sit back and do nothing about, because people feel they can’t help. No matter how bad the situation is, it’s down to a matter of different cultures, different religions, different worldviews. And so violence against women used as a weapon in conflict – that’s awful. Women killed as a result of so-called “honour” crime – that’s awful. Trafficking? Also awful.

But things that happen behind closed doors, in the home, as part of someone’s private life and personal relationships? Awkward. People find it hard not to judge – which inevitably leads to victim-blaming. Why didn’t she just leave him? Her behaviour must have driven him to do it. People can also be dismissive. There are more important issues to focus on, you know. There she goes again, banging on about “women’s issues”. Smirks and eye-rolls abound.

Not everyone feels really convicted about tackling VAW; I do know this. We all have different issues that we feel strongly about, equally important causes that we focus on. But if there’s one thing I’d like to see come out of this year’s 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence, it’s that more people would sit up, take notice, stop sweeping the topics they feel uncomfortable discussing under the carpet and remember that it’s not just an issue that, while awful, is so far removed from our everyday lives that it’s therefore not that much of a problem.

The many forms of violence against women have the potential to affect over half the world’s population, cost governments billions each year and destroy the lives of individuals and families. This is in no way a niche issue, a special interest issue. And despite what some people might think, it definitely affects Christian women, families and relationships. A Christian marriage isn’t necessarily a healthy one; a churchgoing husband isn’t necessarily a kind, respectful and caring one. The theme of this year’s 16 Days is “From peace in the home to peace in the world”. Peace in the world seems a long way off, but we can help effect change closer to “home”.

I’ll never forget how I felt on the occasions that two of my close friends told me they had been raped. On hearing that a friend of a friend was murdered by her violent partner. Nothing will ever dull the pain I feel every time women I know talk about having been in an abusive or controlling relationship. These are all examples of things happening “close to home”, things that don’t need jokes made about them and things that should not be ignored. This month, Refuge and Avon have launched a new campaign – called 1in4women, referencing the percentage of us who will experience domestic violence at some point. The campaign encourages supporters to “spot the signs” that someone they know might be in an abusive relationship, and explains how they can help. It’s as simple as that.

There’s actually another thing I’d like to see come out of 2011’s 16 Days of Action. If the first is that we stop sweeping these issues under the carpet, the second is that as Christians, we might find ways to work together on tackling VAW despite our differences of opinion on gender in the church and in the home. You might not think it makes a difference – after all, we all think that VAW is terrible and wrong, don’t we? But as I’ve seen, people approach the solution in different (and sometimes unhelpful) ways. Stereotypes abound, and nothing productive happens. “Gender equality” is sadly a controversial phrase, and it affects the way people see things, meaning some people wouldn’t normally touch “women’s issues” with a bargepole. Let’s look past that and explore finding common ground, rather than focusing on our differences and how this supposedly means we can’t really work together.

Whatever way you look at it, VAW is always a bad thing, a major issue of injustice – and we can work towards ending it.

Hannah Mudge is a writer, blogger and activist based in the UK. She is passionate about gender equality and writes about feminism, the media, politics and Christianity on her blog, We Mixed Our Drinks, as well as contributing to other sites, and can be followed on Twitter as @boudledidge. After working in the media and publishing sectors, Hannah has just made a much longed-for move into charity communications. She is looking forward to bringing her first child into the world in 2012. 

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This post is part of the 16 Days of Action toward eliminating violence against women. The 16 Days of Action is a global campaign founded by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, I’m hosting posts across the 16 days, from 25 November to 10 December. You can help by sharing these posts on social media, by taking care of the women around you, & by standing against violence against women. A full list of all the posts in the series can be found here.


Connect with Anna on Academia.edu, Linked In, facebook page, & Twitter.

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