Content warning: mentions of violence against women
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. That’s a scarily high statistic – and it gets even higher in countries in which domestic abuse is not considered a crime. But I’ve never really fully understood the weight of that statistic, nor have I really understood the gravity of what it means to have experienced violence like that. At least not until I had a slight glimpse of it recently.
It was getting late – around 10-11pm – and I was out with a group of friends enjoying a long dinner. It was a pretty big group, with people there that I’d known for years, some I’d only just got to know, and some I’d never met before. As we were getting the bill, one of guys, let’s call him Rob, starts slamming the table to the point where the table shook like a wooden ship on a stormy sea. His motive for doing so? Unclear. Had he had a few to drink? Probably. Of course, at this point, people starting asking if he was okay and trying to calm him down. To this day, I still don’t know why he did what he did.
Once we left the restaurant, we were all hailing a cab to get us home. Rob was adamant about cab-sharing with me even after I had explicitly stated that I had no intention of doing so and we weren’t going to the same area. He started getting verbally very aggressive and starting closing the distance between me and him. Luckily, I was in a position where my friends could see the metaphorical red lights flashing and SOS sirens blaring and came to my rescue by physically standing between me and Rob. Rob and I had only met a few times before. It would be an understatement to say that I was absolutely terrified. I was shaking the whole way home.
I know that what I’ve experienced has nothing on the horrors that other women experience when in an abusive relationship or women who have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. What I experienced was only the very tip of the iceberg of a dangerous and problematic norm in the world we live in. Just the thought of potentially sharing a closed space with a violent person, I was washed with such overwhelming and suffocating fear; I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of fear these women must feel. I’ve had to stop every few sentences recounting what had happened because of how traumatising that was. I’ve had to stop and breathe and calm myself down and remind myself that I’m okay and I don’t need to be scared right now because I am safe in my room.
We feel shocked and disgusted by the statistics we see on UN Women, WHO, and other organisations set out to help women experiencing domestic abuse, we can read about their experiences and feel horrified at what they have had to endure, but we are never quite able to understand and empathise with what they have been through because it is beyond us to fully comprehend it. My mum had always taught me about the dangers of being a girl in today’s society, but I had never truly understood the weight of the warning. It’s a shame that now my wariness of the world has increased and I have to learn to be even more cautious about every man I meet. I never could have guessed that Rob is a violent person and that scares me because now I have to ask myself every time I meet someone new whether they could be violent too. I want to share this with all the women who may come across this post and to remind them to be careful because this kind of violence could come from anyone, especially from those you least suspect.