A Parliamentary Question tabled and answered in 2019 showed that since 2010, there were almost 10,000 reported cases of domestic violence. Of these cases, 77% had female victims. The statistic does not show whether these were one-time reports or if one victim had reported domestic violence multiple times. What seems to be certain though is that 100% of those killed through domestic abuse were women.
They say “politicians are responsible for this”, “the police should take action”, “the media downsizes it, and so do the courts” and that “educating young children is the way to deal with abuse”. All of that is true, but how about we all stop and think of how we, each and everyone of us, are responsible for the society we live in.
We are responsible for the deaths of those women who died in cold blood by hands of their intimate partner or spouses.
Men whom they loved and shared moments with. Men who could be described by their friends and colleagues as the calmest person they knew. Men who you would never take to be violent or aggressive, let alone to the women who cared for them, or gave birth to their children.
And yet what we have are murdered women adding to the list of victims of femicide. Yes, that is what it is. It is no crime of passion, but murder. It was only at the cost of another life, that we felt furious again, but that too, as I had expected, passed. My thoughts at the news of Chantelle Chetcuti’s death were that this will be another moment in history where we stood together, but let sometime pass and we would be back to having only a few familiar faces constantly raising awareness and speaking about it. It has become too much of a routine that we have now normalized awareness raising and only few actually pay attention to.
It is sad though, because no matter how hard we try, it seems that we still do not manage to get people to ask one very basic question, “but how am I responsible?”
Here’s my answer to this. You are responsible for the way you bring up your children. “Boys will be boys” attitudes and reminding girls to protect themselves and not show too much, to be careful how they speak and what they say.
You are responsible for your behaviour, for your thoughts even. You are responsible for your gestures at work, in public and at home. You are responsible for the words you choose to utter and the jokes you make. You are also responsible for those actions which are not yours, but which you approve of by laughing them off and not speaking against them.
I too am responsible for this mess. For I have, at times, held myself back for the fear of being too much, to be accepted in different social situations. I too am responsible for allowing colleagues to speak badly of other female co-workers and for accepting sexist jokes, even though I knew that is wrong on so many levels. Fighting the patriarchy is tiring, but this is what we must continue to do. Knowing about your responsibility is one thing. Deciding to act upon it is another.
So much public expenditure, resources both public and those provided by NGOs are invested in the cause, but is it effective after all? We need people to start taking responsibility, to criticize themselves and reflect upon social assumptions which they have internalized for so long. This, in my opinion, is where we need to start directing our resources if we really want to make strides forward in addressing this national issue.
The Faculty for Social Wellbeing offers diverse opportunities including those specifically focused on gender studies, as well as courses in psychology, counselling, family studies, and social work and social policy, leading to different career paths that could enable those interested in engaging in this sector.
Samantha Pace Gasan is Research Support Officer at the Faculty for Social Wellbeing.