Sunday, 31 January 2010

How does this happen?

Should I have seen this coming, got out before it got so bad? He hits me and he tells me it's my fault. I shouldn't provoke him. He rapes me and it's my fault. I dress like a slut. The doctor who stitches the gash where he glassed me looks at me with disgust as he says, 'you're going back to him?'. My fault again. People, neighbours, colleagues look away when I have black eyes, have bruises. I see looks exchanged, hear the whispers. How can she? No kindness, just judgment. And help? Only on their terms, if that.

And I think looking back, now I'm out: how does this happen? How can it be that here in the 21st century, in a time when we speak of equality, of choices, of opportunities, that a woman who is hurt by a man can be hurt again, shamed again, dismissed again by everyone around her, by the people who could help? If we are to apportion blame, how on earth did it get twisted to be her fault?

Battered women, prostituted women, are not stupid. We are hurt, yes, but not stupid. To get through, to survive day by day, hour by hour, in such a sub-life we observe and we learn - fast. Reaching out for help is dangerous. So when we dare, screwing every ounce of courage in our hands only to be slapped down and judged, we learn our lesson. You are not acceptable. Words become futile so we stop talking. People ignore us so we become invisible. We have been hurt by the people we hoped would help.

He is acceptable. He has no bruises, does not bleed, bears no mark of the shame of that life. While we pay twice over, once in the pain and the degradation of the beating, of the rape, of the insults, and then again as society demands, he does not pay a thing. In fact, he earns. Money from selling our bodies, money from the pictures and the tapes. He is rewarded by a society blind to the reality, which turns its back on the human cost, on women, a society which defends pornography as free speech and prostitution as a woman's choice. He is free to go where he will and mix as an equal.

How does this happen?

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