The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 22, 2013

Violence against women is a global health epidemic

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Next time you’re in public, pick out three women.

Choose any three women, it doesn’t matter which ones, elderly, callow or in between, as long as they are older than 15.

One of the three has been abused by her partner.

That is at least what the statistics tell us. A study published recently in the journal Science found that 30 percent of all women age 15 and older worldwide have suffered physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partners.

The authors of the paper combined the results of 141 previous studies of violence against women. The rates of women being abused are not consistent worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of all women have been abused, while in North America, the number is slightly more than one in five.

But it happens everywhere. Last Thursday night, a woman was beaten with a brick, allegedly by her boyfriend. She died Friday and he was arrested for her murder.

In 1994, the U.S. passed the Violence Against Women Act, which combined tough new provisions to hold offenders accountable with programs designed to provide services for victims of violence.

The U.S. is one of 125 countries to outlaw domestic violence. That means in 70 nations, however, beating your wife is perfectly within the law.

In the United Arab Emirates, for example, a 2010 law makes it legal for a man to beat his wife and children, just as long as he doesn’t leave a mark and becomes violent with them only as a last resort.

In many countries, women are still regarded as second-class citizens, at best, as property, as chattel, as having no value beyond child bearing and housework.

This is 2013, the 21st century, an allegedly enlightened age, so why do the members of one sex feel the need to resort to violence against members of the other?

Some men are culturally programmed to believe they are superior to women and are thus entitled, indeed are duty-bound, to keep them in their place by any means necessary.

Others are simply weak, dysfunctional sociopaths who lack self-confidence and have to build themselves up by abusing others. They see women as objects, rather than real live, breathing, feeling human beings.

Abusers don’t wear their crimes on the sleeves, or on their faces, for that matter. Outwardly, an abuser can seem to be a nice, normal guy, charming in fact, and the last person you’d suspect of being a batterer.

One thing is certain, ladies. If he hits you once, he will do so again. Violence escalates, it does not do the opposite. He’ll tell you he’s sorry, that he didn’t mean it, that he’ll never do it again, that he loves you, that he doesn’t know what got into him.

He is lying, both to you and to himself. You need to get away from him, and he needs to get help.

Don’t tell yourself the abuse is somehow your fault, that somehow if you were thinner, prettier, sexier, kinder, nicer, more attentive, more anything, he wouldn’t hit you. It isn’t you, it’s him.

Maybe he hits you and suddenly he’s all sweet and contrite, he is the kind, gentle, funny man with whom you fell madly in love. It won’t last. Dr. Jekyll will fade away and Mr. Hyde once again will be choking and punching you while calling you every name but your own.

Get away as quickly as you can. Take the kids. Put as much distance between your face and his fist as you can. If you live in Garfield, Kingfisher, Blaine or Grant county, call the YWCA Enid 24-hour Crisis Line at 234-7644 or toll free at (800) 966-7644. They can help you.

If your sister, friend or neighbor is being victimized, you likewise can call the YWCA Enid Crisis Line for help and advice.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, one of the groups involved with the latest research, characterizes domestic violence as a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.”

In Robert Fulghum’s 1988 book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” he laid out rules for living based on what he was taught as a small child. Rule No. 3 is “Don’t hit people.”

He should have included a couple more, like “Treat everyone with respect,” and “Don’t put up with anyone beating you up or putting you down.”

Author Joseph Conrad once wrote, “Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.”

Sad but true.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.