Teens unite to end violence against women and girls

POSTED: 11/30/14 10:47 PM

“Don’t mess with a scorned woman”

St. Maarten – “Women are not as helpless as they think they are.” That was one of the remarks, coming from students of secondary schools yesterday at the event Teens Unite To End Violence Against Women and Girls at the Cultural Center on Back Street yesterday morning.

The United Nations has named November 25 as the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. The Women’s Desk and the Department of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs put the local program together. There was a skit (Le Menu), a presentation by Joy Arnell and highly interactive participation by (mostly female) students from the Lycée polyvalent Iles du Nord from Marigot, Milton Peters College, St. Maarten Academy, the Vocational School, Sundial and St. Dominique High School.

Aida Holaman, head of the department for Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs excused Minister Cornelius de Weever (Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor), who was scheduled to present opening remarks. De Weever was absent because of ‘travel duties’ Holaman said.

She added that her department would continue with awareness programs in secondary schools in December.

To put the subject matter in perspective, a cast of five put on stage Earl Duzong’s Le Menu – a skit about an abusive relationship featuring an HIV-positive cheating husband, wherein the woman in the end serves the divorce papers and demands alimony, throwing in a threat to reveal his secrets for good measure. “Sinclair, don’t mess with a scorned woman,” was the final text in the skit.

Joy Arnell, head of the Women’s Desk, engaged the students afterwards in her presentation about violence against women and girls.

Asked to define this violence, one student said: “It is a form of bullying, it takes their power away.” Another student added that there is a cultural component to the way men behave towards women and girls.

Arnell acknowledged that: “It was somehow condoned that we were beaten, but it is not right. We have to change people’s mindsets and it begins with us. And mind you, in could happen to any of us.”

A lot of abuse is about control. “Accepting control is enabling abuse,” Arnell warned.

Control manifests itself for instance in numerous phone calls and text messages. On the surface, they always seem to be expressions of love and concern – for instance about the other one’s whereabouts – but they are in reality methods to send a message: I want to know where you are, what you are doing and with whom. The internet has provided control freaks with a whole new tool box.

Said Arnell: “It is a form of stalking, and girls do it to boys too.”

She encouraged the students to recognize signs of control in the early stage of a relationship and to terminate contacts if they do not like what they see.

The data about violence against women are sobering. A 2013 review of available data, according to a UN-website, shows “that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.” In some national studies, this percentage is as high as 70.

Violence against women is heavily underreported, so what we know from studies is just the tip of an iceberg. A study among 42,000 women across the 28 member states of the European Union shows that only 14 percent reported the most serious act of violence their partner committed against them.

There also seems to be an inability to get away from violent spouses. Last week, the court in Philipsburg sentenced a man to imprisonment for threatening his wife with a machete, stabbing her with a knife and ill-treating her. Yet, the victim was in court and told the judge with a straight face that there were no more problems at home and that she would welcome him back.

The man will first have to serve time in prison, before he goes to Turning Point to treat his alcohol addiction and to follow anger management training.

Arnell knows how tough it is for women to get out of an abusive relationship: “Sometimes they leave seven or eight times and come back again and again before they decide to leave for good.”

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