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City of Banjul
Monday, September 25, 2023

All these clumsy women!



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With Aicha

The world seems to be filled with clumsy women; they walk into bathroom doors, slip in the shower, cut themselves when they are cooking, pour out hot water or oil in a moment of inattention or even manage to spill caustic acid in their faces. Imagine that! How is it possible to be so clumsy, so careless with dangerous things when they at the same time are trying to teach their kids to be careful?
I’m sorry, I first felt for being a bit sarcastic to catch your attention, but before we begin to penetrate the problem these could be the questions we first ask. I remember a woman, the mother of my daughter’s best friend, who was one of these clumsy women. When she attended a parent’s meeting at school she tried to hide her nervousness behind beautiful clothes, a well done make-up and some alcohol. She was used to drink, so she didn’t act drunk, but when I stood near I felt it in her breath.
She was not nervous because of the meeting, she was afraid of her husband who also attended the meeting. I saw the bruises on her arms, she had tried to cover them with some make-up and a long-armed shirt, but the arms of the shirt were not long enough.

She saw in my eyes that I had noticed her bruises and tried, with a nervous laughter, to explain how clumsy she had been the same morning. This time it was a wet and slippery bathroom floor, other times it was the bathroom door instead.
What could I have said to help her? She was still in the phase of denial so as long as she didn’t want to admit, even for herself, that her husband was abusing her, it didn’t matter what I or anyone else said.
It was a matter of denial, she believed she could handle the situation so she didn’t want to speak about it. It was also a matter of her believing that she didn’t deserve better, she felt ashamed and didn’t know how to change her situation.

Living in an abusive relation changes the personality and the deeper one goes the larger the loathing grows.
Living in an abusive relation is a life full of pain, shame, fear, mind control, hope that the abuser will change for the better if the victim only learns not to talk back, not looking at him in a certain way, cooking better meals and so forth.
Too many women believe that their love for a man can change his behaviour for the better, but that is not possible unless he wants to change.

When I have come this far I can hear some of you say that there are also men who get abused by women. Yes, that is true and for these men the stigma is even more severe because men are supposed to be the dominant sex. I can’t talk for men, as I am obviously not a man myself, but it would be interesting to hear from men who have experienced abuse. It is not so common that men get abused, as it is for women, so I will continue speaking about the female aspect of it now.
An abusive relation includes many aspects, not only beating.

Harsh words are tearing down a strong self-confidence piece by piece until the woman feels just as stupid as the man tells her that she is and she believes she deserves the beating. The fear for next blow, for the kicks, the pushes and the hard words is making the woman living in a constant fear.
If she has children it becomes even worse because then she is not only afraid for her own life but also for the lives of her children. The women try to protect the kids so they shouldn’t see the beating or the results of it. She doesn’t want the kids to hear the arguing, experience the humiliation she is forced to go through every day. It is not easy to separate child and women abuse because so many times this goes hand-in-hand.
When we speak about child abuse we might first think of the sexual aspect of it, but that is only one aspect. Children who grow up in a home where there is an abusive man, not necessarily the father, grow up in fear. They try to protect their mother against the abuser. Boys can get a very twisted attitude towards women and girls learn that they are worth nothing just because they are girls.

This makes the girls look for the wrong kind of men the day they are old enough to be dating. These girls are submissive, quiet and look for a dominant man because that is what they are used to. That kind of man looks for a prey among the girls and the one he chooses is the one he is going to use as he wishes.
This is an aweful narrative, isn’t it? There are a lot to be said and done about this matter and sometimes it is hard to know where to begin.

If I should go back to the woman I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the mother of my daughter’s best friend, no one spoke loud about what happened in their home. It was an “official secret” which meant that a lot of people knew about it but no one spoke about it directly to the couple. You might ask me if I did something, and what I did. It is not easy for anyone to interfere in someone’s life but I tried to do what I felt was possible for me.

The couple had two children together, a boy and a girl. The daughter was the same age as my daughter and they went to school together, they often played together after school too. Young girls like sleepovers so I often let the girls sleep in our home during the weekends. It was always the weekends that were the worst in the home of this girl – both parents drank a lot of alcohol and after a while the arguments and beating started. We wanted her to experience a normal family life where the parents didn’t drink alcohol, didn’t smoke, didn’t argue or beat anyone.

We tried to protect the girl as much as we could. It was not possible to speak to the abusive father because he was a big and aggressive guy. The mother lived in denial but we knew she was grateful that we took care of her daughter. The son was much younger than the daughter and he didn’t seem to understand what was going on. We had no natural reason to take care of the boy, he was so much younger than our kids, so we had to hope for the best.

There are shelters here for women who get abused so I gave the mother some written information about those. She was not a close friend of mine and it was hard to talk to her. Women like her try to act as normal as possible, they don’t want anyone to know how they live but at the same time they know deep down that it is not a secret. The women are so vulnerable in that situation, the cover of their mental wounds is so thin so it takes all what they have got to keep it together.
I found this following information on a website called: www.domesticviolenceinfo.ca
For those of you who are interested in learning more about domestic violence, what signals you can look for and how to get help it is a very interesting and useful website. If you know of someone you suspect is a victim of domestic abuse, show her this website or give her the link to it.

From the website above:
”Woman abuse is any use of psychological, physical or sexual force, actual or threatened, in an intimate relationship. Intimate relationships include a current or former spouse, and an intimate, or dating partner. Violence is used to intimidate, humiliate or frighten victims, or to make them feel powerless.”
Domestic violence is found in families from any kind of background; rich or poor, rural and urban settings. The signs of it don’t need to be obvious at all, often are both the perpetrator and the victim very good at hiding the signs behind a nice facade.
When the couple are among people he can appear very loving, both in speech and touch, but you can look for the small signs.

Does the woman shiver a little when he is touching her, or trying to avoid his touch?
In a conversation; is she mostly quiet or speaks with a very low voice? Doesn’t she give her own opinions on anything or is he answering for her every time?
These are some small signs you can look for.
You see, an abuser doesn’t need to be a big bully. When you first think of a man who is abusing his woman, you might think of a big strong guy who is bad tempered all the time. A woman abuser can appear as very charming instead. He knows how to appeal to people because guys like these are manipulative. They are ”one of the guys” when they interact with other men. They know how to lure women into their net, they are like spiders.

They make a net, wait for someone to get stuck in it and then they use their venom to paralyse the victim. In this case it is the woman, his spouse who is the victim. She gets attracted and doesn’t understand until it is too late what kind of man she has got stuck to and by then it is too late.
If you know of a woman who is getting abused by her spouse, here are some useful tips from the website www.domesticviolenceinfo.ca
Do get involved! Though leaving a violent situation may appear simple from the outside, victims of violence against women and children are almost always trapped in the abuse by multiple obstacles and they need your help very much.

Talk with the victim in a safe and comfortable place.
Ask questions. Listen carefully and empathetically. Try as well as you can to understand the mesh of obstacles that keeps her from getting free. It’s usually very complex.
Make phone calls for the victim. It’s extremely difficult for persons traumatised by violence to make the round of phone calls needed to get good information and find the right people to meet her needs.
Help your friend start and keep a notebook. A notebook is crucial to keep the barrage of names, titles, appointments, specialized terms, case numbers, etc. from becoming an additional anxiety. Putting it all down in one notebook gives a victim control.

Accompany your friend to police, courts, social workers and counselors. Or help her find someone who can accompany her. There are many reasons this is so important. When accompanying your friend, ask questions, take notes, and don’t hesitate to speak up if she’s not getting the help she needs.
Be clear with your friend about what you can and can’t do. You simply can’t do it all. Help her find others who can help.

You don’t always have to say the “right things.” Seeing the intensity of trauma in violence against women can be very upsetting. Don’t feel you always have to be saying “right things.”. Calmness, your presence, and a few kind words work wonders!
Please don’t look away! Don’t say that it is none of your business! Don’t say that ”this is how it always has been” or ”she got what she deserved”.
Remember what the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said: ”The best among you is the best to his wife.” Treat your wife with respect in order to follow Islam.
It doesn’t actually matter what religion you feel is closest to your heart, you should always show your spouse respect. There is one rule we all should follow and that is the Golden Rule: ”Treat others the way you would want them to treat you.”

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