Violence against women is a serious topic that women are still fighting for till today. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published an article that indicates that 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced physical violence at some point in their lifetime, either with a sexually intimate partner or non-partner in their lifetime.
How It All Started
Recently, my friend, Lisa (name changed to protect her privacy) had a terrible experience when she was out to grab dinner with her friend. What is more stressful for me was the fact that this happened less than a year after another friend, Paro was harassed by a GrabFood (a food delivery service) rider.
On 10 October 2020, Lisa and her friends went out to grab a late dinner. After dinner, they had decided to hang out a little longer before heading home. They went to Maccal Chennai Bangsar, a nearby dance club that had good music and snacks they enjoyed.
They had agreed to stay for a short while before heading home. Lisa recalled having sat for less than 10 minutes before a man from a nearby table approached them. The man flirted with one of her friends, Rani (name changed to protect her privacy). Rani ignored the man. When he got more aggressive, one of Lisa’s other guy friends who had accompanied them to the bar tried to step in to protect Rani.
Unfortunately, this triggered the man to become more violent. The aggressive man’s friend darted to their table and a fight broke out rendering Lisa and her friends helpless. Rani had a beer bottle smashed on her head by one of the assailants while her friends were also beaten up.
This was a night that shook Lisa and her friends to their core.
Why Did This Happen?
Why did this happen to Lisa and her friends? Was it because they were out late at night or was it because they might have dressed provocatively? Many would even argue it was their fault for going to bar but it was none of these reasons.
This happened because these women were objectified. If the man who flirted with Rani saw her more of a human being with her own freedom rather than a sexual object, he would have taken the hint when Rani had declined his repeated advances.
We as a society have to stop blaming the victims and identify the actual perpetrators.
What Does It Take To Stop Violence Against Women?
On some level, most of us, if not all, participate in the culture that supports and encourages sexism. Things like telling our friends to “man up” when they have to do something challenging or a more serious example would be yelling at female family members for not preparing meals on time can be considered harassment against women. Here are some small and big ways we can work to end it, or at least minimise it, every day.
1. Lodge A Police Report
If harassment violates the public security adminstration law, the victim can apply to the police for administrative penalties to the violators, including fine and detention. If sexual harassment constitutes a crime such as compulsory indecency of women, rape or willful and malicious injury, you should report to the local police in a timely manner so that investigation can be initiated to ascertain any criminal element in accordance to the law.
2. Say “No” Out Loud And Clear
If you feel uncomfortable or violated, address these concerns immediately. Don’t ignore it hoping it will go away. Failure to do so will result in the situation escalating out of control. Say no clearly and firmly to make the harasser stop. Of course, in some situations a verbal “No” will be inadequate. When it doesn’t, provide a written “No” to refuse.
Write how it makes you feel when the harasser violates you. A written “No” prevents the harasser from denying that he/she was unaware that you were uncomfortable. If the harasser continues to make you feel uncomfortable, the note can be used to file a harassment or discrimination lawsuit against your harasser. It will be useful when filing a police report.
3. Complain To Social Organisation
It isn’t easy to talk about personal and intimate matters like this with your family and friends. Some may fear of being judged while others fear the people you are closest to most might not understand your situation. For those who feel like this, you can also turn to non-governmental organisations for their support, help and legal assistance.
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) is an excellent organisation who want a just, democratic, and equitable society where all persons, in particular women, are treated with respect and are free from all forms of violence and discrimination.
Some of the missions they are fighting for are:
- Securing women’s rights
- Bringing about gender equality
- Building capacities for women’s empowerment and social transformation
- Supporting women in crisis
Violence Against You Is Not Your Fault
Many sexual harassment victims blame themselves for instigating the harasser’s behaviour. It is necessary to understand the harasser is completely to blame for his/her actions. By blaming yourself or ignoring the situation, you are sending the message to the harasser that he/she has the right to continue such action. Harassers are usually aware that others are offended by their action. However, they will continue if they feel that they can get away with it.
A Collective Effort To Stop Violence Against Women
The term ‘violence against women‘ means any act of gender-based violence that results in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women. This includes threats, acts, coercion or deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
This is not an issue that we can solve and end in a day. It is a continuous effort that we all have to take to reduce this for the future generation. If one victim speaks up today, this can prevent another assault. For those who want to learn more about this, AWAM provides training and programmes that teach everyone of how to prevent violence against women, I urge you to check them out.
This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.