“The abuse impacted my emotional abilities, I developed a lack of trust, coldness, and overall negative outlook on people in general. When cruelness and abuse is introduced to a child, it diminishes, dreams, hopes and even the vision to be better, obtain more and their overall ability to love.” – Dr. Mary Jo Odom-Dull, Educator and Survivor.
The lives of many women and girls continue to be negatively affected by the vicious cycle and perpetration of domestic violence and sexual assault, within Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and Internationally. Violence against women and girls is a serious social and economic challenge, it undermines the fundamental human rights of individuals and leaves a trail of emotional destruction, physical death and mental and physical decay. It remains a constant threat to personal safety, and grossly affects the economic stability of countries and the advancement of nations.
Women and girls continue to have increased fears for their personal safety, security, their emotional well-being, independence, and empowerment. It is the civic and social responsibility of those who hold elected offices, citizens and authority figures to join forces with advocates and organizations to prevent, reduce and combat all forms of gender-based violence and offer support to those who are adversely affected by the same.
Sadly, many women live behind the veil, and they continue to be the unseen and unacknowledged members of the global community who suffer daily. Gender-based violence affects women emotionally, physically, academically, economically, and socially. It hinders their progress. Women and girls are looked upon as a marginalized minority, they are sexually objectified and are often told what their place in society should be however, physically they are in the majority based on numbers and statics and unfortunately they are at a greater risk for being violently abused and victimized.
Ms Nicole S. Hendrickson, Co-founder and Lead Organizer of Fire Circle and Sexual and Reproductive Rights Advocate says, young girls who have been sexually assaulted as children are at greater risk of becoming teenage mothers due to not having the negotiation skills to ask for safer sex methods to be used. And often times the term ‘Sexually uncontrollable’ is a relative term due to the society that they are brought up in. She went on to say “The education of both boys and girls about how to treat with each other with the understanding that both are valuable and they both have a right to their own bodies. This should be reinforced at all levels of schooling into adulthood.”
Because there is an economic drain on the treasury of many countries as they see the yearly cost of gender-based violence running into the billions many leaders have begun a proactive move for prevention programs, Victim Assistance service Centres, governments collaborations with NGO’s and a push for research, however, many medical, clinical, and law enforcement officers overlook the numerous health consequences and cost of violence against women which over burdens the medical, mental health and judicial systems.
“Health Consequences of Violence against Women; Physical health outcomes: Injury (from lacerations to fractures and internal organs injury), unwanted pregnancy, Gynaecological problems, STDs including HIV, Miscarriage, Pelvic inflammatory disease, Chronic pelvic pain, Headaches, Permanent disabilities, Asthma, Irritable bowel syndrome, Self-injurious behaviour (smoking, unprotected sex). Mental health outcomes: Fear, Anxiety, Depression, Low self-esteem, Sexual dysfunction, Eating problems, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Post-traumatic stress disorder. Fatal outcomes: Suicide, Homicide, Maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS.” - Source: World Health Organization, Violence against Women: A Priority Health Issue, WHO Briefing Kit on Violence and Health.
Former child and adult victim of abuse Dr. Mary Jo-Odom who experienced numerous black eyes endured the pain of broken ribs and blunt head trauma recalls her experiences with abuse; “I was an innocent girl born to a mother who was not prepared for me to enter into this world. She did not want me and tried prior to my birth to get rid of me, however, God’s grace ensured I live. I do not remember an earlier time when I did not suffer from some form of abuse, child abuse (physical or verbal). As I grew older the mate I selected in my first home was abusive, so even when I was finally away from home, I selected a partner that reminded me of home.” She went on to speak of always looking for persons to hurt her and not expecting good things from people “I recognize there can be a coldness within, I do not expect good things from people. When you are introduce to such evil at an early age, harsh words, abuse do not move you. In fact, you are not surprise by the cruelty of people. To live a life where goodness, kindness, generosity and love is, is so far on the spectrum and places you outside the norm. Your tolerance level for pain is high, you become immune to harshness, and isolation for safety is natural."
If the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to be fulfilled it must begin with the preservation, protection, promotion and the academic, economic and health empowerment of all women and girls worldwide, no geographical location should be given priority above another as all women everywhere are in danger and are killed, tortured, trafficked and experience horrendous abuse and human rights violations. When women and girls are in danger and violated there can be no development, no sustainability and no peace. “For where the human rights of one woman is violated the human rights of all are in jeopardy.”- Alexander Benjamin, Executive Director O.A.B.I
This article was submitted for a capstone final project for a journalism course and is republished here for O.A.B.I.: Organization for Abused and Battered Individuals