Shame, silence surround violence

Article by PNG Post Courier /
February 26, 2013 /
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KAY Schubach understands the culture of shame and silence surrounding domestic violence better than most. The Sydney woman was raped and attacked repeatedly by her ex-partner before summoning the courage to speak up.

“He nearly smothered me in my own apartment, and eventually I screamed as loudly as I could. I know everyone would have heard me,” she says.

“I was waiting for a neighbour to come, or the police to come. And no one came.”
For Ms Schubach, talking about the experience became an important part of the healing process.

“Silence becomes shame, shame erodes your self-esteem and self-esteem is why women stay in violent situations, so it’s a vicious cycle,” she says.

All around the world, people will today rise up and speak out on behalf of women like Ms Schubach, sending the message that violence against women needs to be talked about before it can be extinguished.

Created by American writer Eve Ensler, the movement is called One Billion Rising. It has already caught the attention of people in 200 countries who plan to use it as a platform to highlight perceived deep inequalities in their cultures.

Supporters will use the day to gather together and dance as a visible means of protesting violence towards women.

The name refers to the number of women on the planet – one billion – who will experience some sort of violence in their lifetime. The UN reports women aged 15 to 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.

And women generally are far more likely to experience domestic violence, rape, discrimination, trafficking and honour killings than men.

Natascha Moy, who has organised a rising’ of more than 200 men and women in Sydney, says the movement celebrates women while drawing attention to a critical subject.

“I think the problem with domestic violence and female circumcision and rape is there’s so much shame and so much humiliation that goes with it, that the idea that we are going to celebrate surviving it rather than actually falling victim to it is a far better way of dealing with it,” she explains.


University of Melbourne gender and politics expert Dr Lauren Rosewarne says dancing in itself will never end the vast and complex issues involved in sexual violence and gender discrimination, but it can be an important mechanism to get people talking about the issue.

“This stuff gets attention in the mainstream media and that’s a good thing because it helps spotlight issues,” she says.

“It’s not enough on its own, but it’s a good start.”

The campaign appears to have tapped into a growing global sentiment to speak out about violence against women, spurred by cases such as the gang rape of an Indian student on a bus, the attack on Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai, and in Australia, the alleged rape and murder of ABC employee Jill Meagher.

“Being able to personalise [the issue] through a victim you get to have a face to put on an issue that’s otherwise vague,” says Dr Rosewarne.

The increasing use of social media, particularly in developing countries, has also helped mobilise whole communities.

“In generations gone by, it always took a lot longer for other countries, because of geographic or social isolation, to catch onto new ideas or new ways of thinking,” Dr Rosewarne says.

“This is why you have that idea of rural areas always being more conservative than the cities.

“That’s now starting to break down, because geography’s much less important in a globalised world made that way because of the internet.”


Listen to Listen: Roshika Deo on violence against women in the Pacific’ on Audioboo
Fiji-based human rights worker Roshika Deo is co-ordinating groups across the Pacific who plan to take part in One Billion Rising.

She has been liaising with activists in Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea,

Guam and New Caledonia as well as Fiji, predominantly through Facebook.
Ms Deo says the campaign is an opportunity to spotlight an issue that often lacks awareness in the region.

“I felt that in the Pacific, we are not giving this issue the attention it deserves in order to be able to stop and end the violence against girls and women.”

While global statistics state one in three women will experience violence in their lifetime, “in the Pacific it is even worse than that,” says Ms Deo.

“Recently the Fiji women’s crisis centre launched their research results and it showed that 64 per cent – which is more than the 33 per cent of the worldwide stats – 64 per cent of women have either been beaten or raped by an intimate partner.”

“We have similar stats for similar Pacific Island countries, whether it is Polynesia, Melanesian or Micronesian countries. It’s as high as 80 per cent.”

Ms Deo also points to the role of the wider community in breaking the culture of silence she says also permeates the Pacific.