Women: What is Violence Against Women?

By Sally McBride

Violence means fighting, hostile or cruel action against others. The opposite of violence is peace. We all would like to have peace in our homes and families, but some unfortunate women do not.

The United Nations says that violence against women means any act of violence towards a woman, not only hitting. It can be physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering. It can happen in private, at home, or in public. It can happen to anyone, rich or poor, old or young, immigrant or native-born. Countries belonging to the United Nations, including Canada, agree that this is always wrong.

Why do some men hurt women?This might be because the man feels weak or powerless and must make the woman feel small. This makes him feel bigger. He wants to control her. Especially if a woman is smart or pretty, an abusive man feels that he has to break her spirit. Some men may feel it is “okay” to hit or threaten a wife or girlfriend, because they saw their fathers strike their mothers or sisters. They might have a very bad temper and not know how to control it.

It doesn’t have to be a punch or slap to be violence. There are different ways to hurt.

Physical violence This could be anything from pushing and shoving, to hitting, beating, use of a weapon, torture, mutilation or even murder.

Emotional and mental violence This kind of violence is against a woman's self-confidence and feelings about her own value as a person. It could be yelling, insults, mockeries, and threats. If a man curses at you or humiliates or harasses you, or shows contempt, that is a form of violence. He might hold back any form of care for you, or keep you away from friends and family.

Sexual violence Any form of forced sexual activity that a woman does not agree to. This is everything from harassment, unwanted sexual touching, to rape. This form of violence also includes incest (sex between family members, such as father and daughter).

Financial violence This is when a man takes control of all the money, even what you should have for yourself. He might take away your pay. He might keep you from having your own bank account or savings. He might forbid you to get a job or do anything to earn money.

Neglect Failure to provide for a person's basic needs and human rights, such as food, shelter and clothing. If you are refused food, or told you cannot see a doctor if you are sick or hurt, this is neglect, a form of violence against you.

You have the right as a human being to have respect, care and attention. If your man hits or abuses you (or your children) in any of these ways, and you do not feel safe, then you must ask yourself if it is wise to stay with him. He may say he loves you and is sorry for hitting you, but still he hits you. It is wrong for him to do this, and you can seek help. Remember, you are not the only woman to suffer. There are many people and services ready to help you and others like you.

For information about who to call for help, click on the "Help for Assaulted Women button on Settlement Roadmap

CMN