What happens when the violence against women is not practiced by the enemy but from the people closest to the heart? Sad enough. Domestic violence is a serious issue that has been neglected by the public opinion in the Arab world. Domestic violence has many forms and facets, be it verbal or physical. Often the victims suffer silently for years covering up for their loved ones to maintain the illusion of a happy family. What are the forms of violence? What are the reasons behind these forms of violence? What are the reasons why so many women don’t find an easy way out? Many unanswered questions to a serious issue.
Many people believe that domestic violence is wife beating, but there are many more forms that fall under this category. Forcing sexual intercourse upon the wife is a common form of abuse as it is rape regardless of marriage bonds a No is a No! This issue is very common in lower social classes and rural areas as they believe that the wife is there to satisfy their needs. Would there be more religious knowledge one would know that this is not accepted. There is a Hadith which says: "When anyone of you comes to his wife, let him not fall suddenly upon her, but let him speak words of love to her and then kiss each other. The Prophet said: Let none of you fall suddenly upon his wife like a lower animal. Let him send the Envoy before cohabitation. Someone asked ‘What is the Envoy O Prophet?’ He said, ‘kisses and words of love.’ The Prophet said: In three matters, the weakness of a male is disclosed. Firstly if a lover meets his beloved, and then they separate without enquiring into their mutual condition and health; secondly, rejecting the honor which someone wishes to pay him [i.e., by rejecting a gift which was offered]; thirdly to engage in sexual intercourse with the wife or the female who is legally permitted, without talking to her or kissing her or by being unable to restrain the ejaculation of semen before that of his wife." Surely this would have not been said if the wife were sexual property of the husband.
Another from of violence is using explicit and humiliating language when addressing the wife. Aggressive forms of communications, name-calling, embarrassing her in front of strangers are all forms of verbal abuse that result in the destruction of the woman’s self-esteem and sense of self-value. Extreme lack of respect and constant trauma of being verbally abused is as harmful as beating fists, both leave deep scars.
There are several reasons for violence, of course no justification, just assumed reasons. Studies reveal that many external and internal factors are part of the causes for domestic violence such as financial problems, illiteracy and religious ignorance as well as psychological problems of the husband. Poverty and lack of success in professional life often leads to expressing the anger of his failure by beating or assaulting the wife as a vent for his failure or problems, so he puts it on the helpless wife. The wife here is walking over a mine field, where any slight deviation or move could result in an explosion.
Often a wrong upbringing gives the man a wrong image of how to treat a woman, and his wife in particular. Many cases of domestic violence reveal that men who abuse their women have either been abused during childhood or grew up in a home, where the mother was mistreated as well. Even though having suffered or witnessed the mother suffer, they often end up using the same hated methods the father used to ventilate his anger as they don’t know any better. Apart from that many abusive men are convinced that this is the "proper" way to handle their woman as they are the ones in control. Would there be enough religious knowledge these men would know better how to behave. Islam and Christianity do not promote domestic violence or abuse, on the contrary the wife is supposed to be respected, pampered and well-treated. The foundation of this misbelieve is based on poor socialization and upbringing in tough lower social standards with poverty and illiteracy.
As an outsider one often carelessly points out astonishment about how the woman doesn’t get herself out of the marriage or relationship, yet from the inside things are not as easy. Battered women often remain for years in their dilemma, often even unnoticed by their surrounding environment. For many women the situation has become so devastating and embarrassing that often they feel worthless and worse believe to deserve this fate. Another main reason is the strong dependence on the spouse, financially and socially, as their self-esteem has become so low thinking that they cannot survive without her abuser. Being financially dependant worsens the situation as she cannot afford to just get out and start all over again. Lack of support from parents or other close persons who rather look away or don’t see the magnitude of her tragedy is also another reason why women accept their cross. Sadly, in Egypt loosing face is in many social classes a reason to avoid confrontation and remain in this abusive state.
I came across different cases, some in my closer circle and some of strangers. Most of these cases have one fact in common; the women do not know how to find their way out. "My sister was married to a very brutal man. We never realized he was beating her as she became a professional in hiding it. He used to hit her in place not visible to stranger, never in the face. Yet once he beat her up so hard, that she called us and we had to rush to the hospital. My father was furious and devastated to see his daughter like that and took her home. He refused her husband speaking to my sister and told him to divorce her. For some odd reason my sister gave in to the apologies of her husband and went back to him against our will. After 4 years, she had given birth to her son and somewhat found a way to adapt to her situation, we found her crying at the door. Her husband came home and after a fight started hitting their son, this was when she grabbed herself out of this marriage for good", tells R.D.
"My husband and I met at a friend’s gathering, fell in love and got married. He was Mister Perfect, pampered me from head to toe, coming from a very good family and with a promising career in Architecture. I don’t know how or when our lives got turned upside down. It seemed like he had another side that I never imagined to experience. It began one day at a business dinner at his boss’s house, where something must have clicked in his mind. I will always remember that night. He cornered me in front of his colleagues and their wives with jokes and embarrassing comments that ridiculed me. When at home I picked up a fight about what happened I felt his hand slapping my face so hard that my lip started bleeding. I was in total shock as if my life is passing by in a film strip. Before I could utter a word a second slap followed and I fell on the ground and twisted my ankle over a shoebox next to our bed. He kept on calling me names and kicked me with his foot then he starred at me and ran out. I packed my bags that night. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone so I called my best friend to pick me up. I never went back to him again and I don’t know until now what exactly triggered this behavior. I am just lucky we didn’t have any kids", M.E. comments.
As part of our social responsibility is to help women in such situations and give them a channel to overcome their fear and speak about their abuse. They are not alone, our society is changing as well as legal support and protection of women’s rights has emerged dramatically. The National Women’s Council has established a complaints office that helps battered women and gives them support to take protective measures in terms of divorce charges at the Family Court, marriage counseling, and getting out of an abusive marriage. There is a service hotline for abused women at the National Council for Women (5747865-5747813-0800 888 3 888) as well as at the Ministry of Interior (138).
Don’t be silent anymore, be aware of your rights and use them. You are half of this society and entitled to a happy abuse-free life being a mother, a sister or a wife. And you, yes you, don’t look the other way when you could help!