Gosh! It´s been forever since I posted anything.
It´s not that I´ve been suffering from a lack of ideas. Both myself and Miss T have had plenty of things on our minds. And I guess that´s just it. Too many thoughts, and no time to focus on one train of thought or the other. And then there´s this bone I´ve been chewing for quite some time now that I can´t seem to let go.
Over the past months we´ve been seeing a lot about rape in the Norwegian media, as well as a case about an all-male Facebook group in which some of the members took the “joke” a bit too far and started posting images and threatening comments about this or that woman. I´ll admit, I haven´t followed the latter theme too closely. But this has provided us with fuel for lunchtime convos, and reminded us of issues that needs to be discussed. Some might think it has reached the point of tediousness, but I disagree. There are some things that should be talked to death. This post, however, is about another issue, albeit closely related to the aforementioned topics.
Violence in close relations.
Galtung operates with the terms direct violence, intended to insult the basic needs and nature of others, structural violence “with such insults built into social and world structures as exploitation and repression, and cultural violence, aspects of culture (such as religion and language) legitimising direct and structural violence.” (1996: p. 40). Our focus will be direct violence, understood to be the impairment of human life that lowers the degree to which a person is able to meet his or her needs below their actual potential.
As we´re rapidly nearing Halloween there are quite a few images going around of people wearing makeup resembling injuries. In my younger days I dabbled in this kind of makeup myself, not really thinking it through, other than for fun and for the purposes of training volunteers in first aid. Unfortunately, those injuries have been the reality of too many. What is more, is that violence in close relations will often take a form that is more obscure, and as a friend, Angela*, who had the misfortune to experience it personally pointed out: One might be present without the other, but there is never physical violence without psychological.
From reading and talking about violence in close relations, it seems to me that it is akin to bullying, in that it often seems to entail isolation, degradation and control.
Isolating from potential helpers and instilling low self-esteem and self-worth in order to establish a sense of superiority and gain control.
“La retorica es tú arma más letal” (Shakira, Nó)
Rethoric is your most lethal weapon. Christina´s friend was in a relationship with a rather unscrupulous man. This person attempted to manipulate Christina as well as her friend, and when he was unsuccessful in manoeuvring her, he worked further to isolate her friend. When Christina broached the subject to her friend, it only confirmed the things the man had told her friend about her, essentially that she was a bad person and friend and she´d be better off without. Efficiently resulting in Christina´s friend calling it quits on their friendship.
In our conversations, Angela mentioned comments about appearance and in particular weight as part of the abuse she experienced. Comparison is the thief of joy, indeed, and she was often compared to other women. Women are very vulnerable to comments about their weight, and he would often tell her the women of his native country were a lot skinnier than her, implying that she was fat and eventually instilling a sense of being unworthy of his attention.
This goes into the dynamic of direct, structural and cultural violence, as the “ideal” is to be good-looking, in accordance with the current discourse, and being in a relationship. Through psychological abuse the subject negates the self-worth of the object (“You´re not good enough/pretty enough/too fat.”) Instilling the object with the idea that it´s him or her there´s something wrong with, and he or she can´t leave because they´ll never find anybody else who will love them, which in turn might be a goal for the object.
There´s also the chance that the subject might seem charming enough that friends of the object doesn´t notice, or the object believes they don´t notice, to the point that the object decides he or she is wrong in thinking things shouldn´t be like this or somebody would have interfered. As Christina experienced, it might be very difficult to bring up the topic, for fear that it might result in further alienation of the object, or simply they tell themselves that “This person wouldn´t remain in this relationship if he or she wasn´t happy.”
All in all it is a minefield, and one not easily traversed in the space of a few lines, nor in the face of reality.
I don´t remember how long they stayed together, before Christina´s friend realised her situation and how long it took to get out, but both Christina´s friend and Angela got out.
Not everybody does.
Part of the injustice those who live through violence in close relations have to deal with is the questions of why didn´t they do something? Say something? Ask for help? Or they are exaggerating, it can´t have been that bad, but *he´s such a great person, stop whining, you are so touchy. In other words, the issue is not being taken seriously, unless it is by those who have personal experience with it. On occasion it is a topic for the International women´s day, but it should´t be.
It should be a theme every day.
*Names have been changed.
Galtung, J. (1996): Peace by Peaceful Means, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo.