It’s speaks volumes about the state of our society when our laws still do not reflect the need for proper legislation and consideration for women living with domestic violence.
Wednesdays’ judgment that gave three years to a woman who stabbed her partner in self defense clearly shows that St. Maarten has a long way to go. For the Prosecutor to say that she was not in danger after he slapped her is a sign of his ignorance of what happens in a home filled with domestic abuse.
A woman is always in danger!
AMR could have been me. It could have been any woman who has ever had to live in fear for her life. Because you never know what will set the man off. It could be the children making too much noise, a little too much salt in the food, or you spending your own money without his consent. As women, we are taught to believe that taking care of the home is our responsibility and catering to the every need of your man is tantamount to your success. So we take on all of the blame that abusive men dump on us, including that of their own failures to cope in a world that makes it hard for them to be real men.
You soon learn that as much as you fix what set him off yesterday, it will be something new today that is the cause of your beating. Your sense of failure grows even more because you don’t know what it will be because if you did, you would fix it before it happened.
Second…the abuse is happening and permitted to continue because you feel powerless and without options to change things or get out.
This is because the physical abuse is the icing on a cake of verbal, mental, and social violence. It is not hard to hit a woman whose spirit is already broken. The physical abuse is also the last resort when she still manages to find a will to live and not die even after being kept away from her family and friends, still able to bring home money after a hard days work, keeping the house and children clean even though her body is racked with pain.
But because our sense of success is measured by the happiness of our man rather than our own, leaving does not seem to be an option as it would be a sign of failure. The abusive partner’s constant barrage of insults and long list of your failures has provided the idea and belief that you are not worth much more than he is giving.
What I love about life and the human spirit is that it has been written on our DNA that we must survive and we must complete what we were given life to do. Sooner or later, that program on your DNA overrides everything that has been said or done to you and somewhere you find the will to fight back. Not every woman gets the opportunity to walk away without a fight. Not every woman will have the time to plan their escape.
Like it or not an abused woman has to plan, she must be calculating. She has to figure out whether she has the courage to leave her children behind if that time came. She has to find away to save some money for the rainy days ahead without him catching wind of it. She has to figure out how she will deal with her own sense of failure that she was not strong enough to leave earlier. She must plan how she will respond to him when inside she knows its time to get out.
AMR made her choice and she fought back in the way that she felt was her only option. She lived with him long enough to know that if her actions weren’t clear and successful her life would be in even more danger. Call it pre-meditated or not but it is about survival and the choice was his life or her own.
We live in a society which continues to practice the belief that domestic abuse is a private matter. Our police are willing to help but don’t understand why a woman would retract her statement of abuse or later drop the charges. If they could understand that at the point she has called for help she really is fighting back even through her pain, maybe they can create an environment where she feels safe enough to challenge him rather than go back because she has been met with disbelief and sarcasm “that they always go back anyway.”
I am sorry that AMR will have to live with the thought that she had to take his life to regain her power. But I hope she lives each day with the knowledge that she deserves to be alive and that within her power is the ability to shake off her 19 years of bondage and move on into a life filled with joy.
I hope every woman understands that she has a choice. It may not be immediately visible or executable. But the knowledge of choice will be the very power that creates the opportunity to execute it at the most appropriate time.