Women Everywhere - Say NO to Domestic Violence.

By 15:09 , ,

Sunday was International Women's Day, a holiday I only came to know about well, through celebrations of the date at my Brazilian church community in the U.S.  It is not a holiday that is talked about much in the U.S.  When in college, we had a number of events in March for women, and a week of events targeting domestic violence, but that was about as much exposure as I got from the American community.  Here in Brazil, yesterday, all sorts of TV shows were talking about women, domestic violence, breast cancer, etc.  Stores are having sales!  Pernambucanas, a retail store, opened today JUST for women and some stores offered massages, etc.  Saturday, I went to an event for female bloggers in São Paulo where we did all sorts of girly things and at the same time talked about all sorts of beautiful strong women things.  When I got back from church in the morning, my male roommate gave me a big hug saying, "Parabéns," for my day and asked if I had already had breakfast (implying he would make me breakfast if not); received an e-mail from my father, and orkut/twitter/text messages from other Brazilian male friends saying the same.  Needless to say, the day is taken seriously here, and I have been feeling very happy to be a beautiful female.   

What upsets me is the day to day treatment of women. 

As I had promised, and got off track for personal reasons, I am going to talk about a kind of violence today in support of the Church's Campanha da Fraternidade.  Since it is so timely, I'm going to talk about Domestic Violence and rape.  Ironically, I want to highlight an occurence that has shocked and awed the country and the world and has to do with a very big no-no by a Catholic Bishop in the state of Pernambuco.  The long story short is: A nine-year old girl had been raped for 3 years and was recently impregnated by her stepfather.  Her mother found out and took her to abort the twins she was carrying, per medical recommendation saying she was in no physical condition to have the babies.  Brazilian law states that abortions are legal only in the occurences of rape and/or threat to the woman's health - therefore this abortion was 100% legal.  The city's bishop,  upon discovering this abortion, simply decided he had the right to ex-communicate the girl, her mother and the doctors who operated on her (NOT the stepfather!).  The whole ex-communication thing is beyond my frame of thought right now.  While speaking to my father on the phone this morning, he said, "Who does that bishop think he is?  Only God has the right to decide who's really the one to be ex-communicated."  I agree with pops.  The stepfather was arrested, and the little girl is out of harm's way.  

                                                                 Or is she? 

The fact of the matter is that this child, for years, was experiencing acts of violence and cruelty.  How many times have I heard women close to and not so close to me testify acts of sexual abuse and domestic violence and say these actions have haunted their thoughts constantly?  Even more scary?  Most of these occurences were rape by friends or men they knew well!  At my college, there was a week of events in March dedicated to domestic violence and one of the events was called "Take Back the Night," in which girls would go up to a microphone and tell whomever was there what their experience with domestic violence was.  Each year, several girls would tell their stories as well as some guys who would talk about acts of violence against their mothers or sisters.  For some, it was the first time they had ever told  anyone.  

Rape is something I and billions of women around the world fear and are cautious of every day.  Whether it's with a guy I'm dating or walking down the street at night.  I not only have to worry about whether or not the guy I'm seeing is genuinely nice, nor do I have to worry about how much money I'm carrying in my wallet.  I need to worry about whether or not he's going to respect me and my limits and I need to worry about what the person who robs me might do to me physically if I were to be robbed walking the streets of any city in the world at night (or in some cases, broad daylight!).  Rape is a reality and a possibility for any woman, even the more educated one, the strong feminist type, the lesbian, and the innocent child.  A number of women have been raped not once, but several times.  Not only by a stranger, but by a boyfriend or close friend.  Women can't forget an unfaithful or trifiling friend for words or actions...  How does anyone expect anyone to forget and forgive rape?  It is not only physical, but spiritual and mental violence.  That little girl in Olinda, Pernambuco is going to feel the violence against her for the rest of her life. 

My final word on this perposterous form of violence?  I'm going to quote Letícia Massula, our host for the female blogger event and reknowned Brazilian feminist and lawyer (and GREAT cook and decorator, btdubs), as best as I can, when she said:

Rape happens at any point a woman says no to sex.  I don't care if she invited him into her house, if she walked into the room, if she took her own clothes off, if she was involved in and enjoyed foreplay and even if she opened her legs... if at any point she says 'NO,' it's rape and 'No,' means the sex is UNWANTED.

So to all my ladies out there - Use this month to reflect on how far we have come in history.  To appreciate those strong women who are our predecessors.  To thank the women who surround you daily.  To appreciate the men in your life who respect and value your presence.  And most importantly - know what your rights as a female and person are.  We have civil rights that women in the past did not have, and an opportunity to speak out against injustices (in most countries).  If you are involved in any act of domestic violence, never think you are at fault, never think you are inadequate, and never think you deserve what you have received.  And SEEK HELP.  

You are a goddess, a princess and querida.  Don't let anyone convince you otherwise :-)   

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