–By: Alexandra Kinias —
It was not uncommon, when I was growing up in Egypt, to hear loud screams screeching the stillness of the hot summer nights, when people opened their windows to the cool Mediterranean breeze. Chilling sounds of women pleading to their husbands to stop or calling for help pierced the neighborhood. And by sunrise, perpetrators walked freely in the streets, as if nothing had happened, while the bruised faces you met, with eyes averted were the only proof of the heinous crime committed against women
Domestic violence is a disturbing phenomenon practiced by men across cultures for control and dominance. According to the UN reports, up to 70 percent of women have experienced violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. And according to the same report, it is estimated that of all women who were victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members.
No woman is immune against this abhorrent practice regardless of her age, religion, race, education, and social or economic status. And while it is criminalized in many countries around the world, in male dominant societies, as in the Middle East and where sharia is the panel code of law, domestic violence is often blamed on women for bringing it upon themselves.
In these societies, domestic violence is not just accepted, but also promoted, advised and justified by religious scholars. Defenders of the faith deny that Islam is responsible for the perpetuation of violence against women, as it also exists in non-Muslim communities. Many go as far as refuting the interpretation of the verse that explicitly states it.
Domestic violence is practiced by men of other cultures and other beliefs in communities around the world, but in such societies, it is criminalized and perpetrators are punished. On the other hand, in communities where Islam rules, not only it is not criminalized, but also viewed as an acceptable male behavior, where victims are mostly blamed for their victimization.
As violence continues, women not only reach a state of submissiveness in accepting this abusive treatment, but also justify it, and question their role in triggering it. This justification becomes their coping mechanism. It gives them a delusional hope that if they changed, violence would stop. In a survey reported by amnesty international, 39 per cent of Egyptian women agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances, which may include going out without telling him, neglecting the children, arguing with him, refusing to have sex with him, and burning the food.
Awarded with the privileges handed over to them at birth by their gender, men find no need to change. Women in societies where violence pervades are bred to obey, please and work the relationship, take more care of the men’s needs, avoid confrontations, and become a subordinate – not an equal partner – in the relationship. So under whatever circumstances, women believe that it is their fault to be punished for not being a good partner, and often come to the defense of their abusers.
Acknowledging their own fault in triggering their aggression, women modify their attitudes and behavior, as a good wife or partner should. They avoid confrontations, for it’s their role, dictated by their society or community, to be understanding and considerate; to stay calm, accept the abuse and not answer back, not to intimidate, and not to complain. And when women are punished for defying the status quo, they blame themselves and promise to be more careful next time. Unfortunately with each incident, their voices get lower until they are eventually silenced.
Experiencing violence is traumatic and demeaning. Physical and mental abuse is humiliating. It shakes women’s confidence and her self-worth dwindles. It perpetuates in silence because it is shameful to talk about. Perpetrators achieve control over the victim by breaking her emotionally and mentally. Victims become isolated and as a result, the cycle continuous because silence is the perfect ground for abuse to thrive.
Many victims endure years of abuse without seeking help because of financial dependency and fear of homelessness. So instead of breaking away from the relationship, women stay and try to make it work. But against their best judgment, the vicious cycle of domestic violence not only doesn’t end, but it escalates and the episodes become more frequent, severe and intense.