A year ago, a friend of mine wore a long-sleeved shirt at the beach all summer; I had to ask her maybe 10 times what was going on until she finally admitted she had bruises covering one of her arms. Of course, when you have known a happily married couple for years, with a content husband flaunting his perfect Stepford wife all the time, you would never suspect a case of domestic violence.
A couple of months later, I witnessed the first subtle streak of violence towards my friend. He pinched her arm when she answered back. Countless lies and excuses later, she admitted that he was occasionally violent towards her. Innocently, the first thing that came out of my mouth was “leave” and she immediately replied, “No, he isn’t always like this.”
Our disturbing heart to heart talk made me wonder what could be harder than never knowing when you’ll be punched next. In her case, I could think of three reasons why she would tolerate this: sharing kids with the abuser and the fear of losing them if she decides to leave, not having a job and financial independence and living in a country that will not protect her from him or preserve her rights in case of a divorce.
Domestic abuse is not just an Egyptian or an Arab thing; it is reported all over the world, affecting people of all economic and social statuses. It can take different forms including financial deprivation, physical assault (kicking, pinching, slapping and throwing objects) or intimidating threats. The abuser might be the husband, father, brother or even another female.
According to the 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS), 47% of married women have reported their experience with physical violence since the age of 15. The highest violence rates were shown in the province Qalioubia (61%) and lowest in The Suez Governorate (16%).
A 2013 study by the World Health Organization reported more than one third of the women in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia to be subjected to physical or sexual abuse at some point in her life.
Another multi-country – including Egypt – study reported regular alcohol consumption of the husband/partner, past witnessing of father beating mother, the woman’s poor mental health and poor family work status as risk factors of domestic violence.
There are laws that protect Egyptian women against domestic abuse, however it is no surprise when you hear of a socially privileged woman granted a divorce, while someone with the same case yet from a humble background ends up as a victim of what is considered normal in her culture.
If you find yourself too afraid of being disciplined if you question your partner about anything, then you are in a dysfunctional relationship. Don’t justify abuse as part of Arab marriages used to correct the wife’s behavior. Don’t remain silent. Do not think that reporting your ordeal has a social stigma; do not fear your partner’s reputation. You are not an object and your partner in no way owns your body. You are no one’s punching bag.
Find a job, any job; financial security is a must if you plan on leaving. Surround yourself with a support system and people who genuinely love you. Talk to a marriage counselor or a therapist. Speak up and take control of your destiny.
I am aware that everything is easier said than done, I know my friend hasn’t been able to leave her partner until this day and I know an abused woman is a broken one who is brainwashed into feeling worthless and undeserving. But it all ends when you realize this is not okay. Never forgive, because once a hitter, always a hitter.
All we can do is support the women around us and raise awareness amongst our children. Teach our boys that a woman should be cherished and teach our girls to love and respect themselves above all. Hopefully our country will be more active in the future when it comes to women’s rights.
Abusers of the world, please take your authoritarian crap somewhere else.
WE SAID THIS: Don’t miss Do You Spank Your Spouse?