Sunday, 20 November 2011
Tackling Some Heavy Shit - Violence against women with mental health problems
So now you have been warned, and you are still reading (hopefully), I will explain. I was at work the other day and I came across a box of charity pins that were shaped like white ribbons. A lot of charities use ribbons, and ones with different colours mean different things. A red ribbon means AIDS, a pink one means breast cancer, it's a bit like the 'Hanky Code', a code that existed among gay men in the olden days whereby they would wear different coloured hankerchiefs in their pockets to signify what they liked sexually. As I'm sure a lot of people felt in those days though, I didn't want to assume I knew what the ribbon meant before I put one on, so I did what every right thinking person of the 21st century would do and googled it. This is what came up:-
So, it is in fact 'Men working to end violence against women'. The site invites you to make a pledge, and add your name to a list of people who have stated they will never be violent against women, or condone violence against women, or be silent about violence against women. So I added my name, and now I have a white ribbon.
Yesterday, I went to see The Vagina Monologues, which was written by Eve Ensler. It is quite self explanatory, as it is a load of monologues about vaginas. It covers a lot of bases though, it is funny (hilarious in places!) and also sad, shocking (some people walked out at one point) and I thought this Welsh woman behind me was gonna have some sort of cardiac event, as she went into total hysteria.
After she wrote The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler went on to found the V Day movement, which is 'a global movement to end violence against woman and girls'. Women all over the world organise events every year on V Day to raise awareness and money for the movement. V Day is on valentines day, and I'd say it is worthwhile to try to do something useful for the world on this day, rather than to jiz out loads of cash on red roses, champagne, chocolate and a 'posh meal' in order to get a crap shag. Valentines day is a pet hate of mine (it's not because I've spent most of my life single and therefore should rename valentines day 'Day of the Crank', no). Anyway, so we've got men trying to stop violence against women, and women trying to stop it as well. This is all good stuff. BUT it still happens.
Once, when I was doing my nursing training I met a man who had been raped. He was randomly attacked when walking home one night. His life was ruined that day, he couldn't work due to post traumatic stress disorder, he had become agoraphobic and never went out, subsequently his health suffered. It was very sad. I went home that night, and when my (male) housemate asked me if I was ok, I said I had met this man who had been raped and it had made me think a bit. He said,
"See, I don't think I would mind that. Except if she was minging of course"
It was not a joke. Aghast, I said,
"By a man, you idiot!"
He had no concept at all that it was even possible for him to be raped. What carefree lives men lead. Ever since I was about ten, I have known that it is possible for me to be raped. I obviously don't think about it all the time, but it comes into your mind when you walk home alone and someone comes behind you. It comes into your mind when you lie in bed wondering if you locked the doors to your house. It comes into your mind when you are alone in a lift with a male stranger. I'm sure it comes into many women's minds when they are told that their country is now at war, or there is some sort of crisis. It is always there, and every woman knows. In this way we are always weaker.
Physically, we are smaller and we are vulnerable. Mentally we are just as strong as men, but what happens when we are also vulnerable in this area? This is what I wanted to find out when I read this article:-
Rees, S., et al (2011) Lifetime Prevalence of Gender Based Violence in Women and the Relationship With Mental Disorders and Psychosocial Function. Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 306. No 5.
(Check out those long words!!!!)
To summarise, not much research has been done in this area, but this study is PROPER. (By this I mean I have appraised it as a form of evidence and it is satisfactory, obvs).
The findings were that while women who have suffered 'Gender based violence' (which is a term they use to describe domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse and other stuff like stalking) often have suffered mental health problems as a result of it, often having a mental health problem can predispose women to suffering gender based violence in two ways. One way is the predatory way that some perpetrators will target those that are vulnerable, the other way is harder to explain.
When I was depressed, I felt alone and that all the 'normal' people around me didn't understand me. They couldn't understand what I was going through, they had never had thoughts like I had, and felt feelings like I did. Because of this, I sought people who I felt did understand. I wanted to be friends with people who I felt were as fucked up as I was. I wanted kindred spirits, and I found them. The problem was, that they were fucked up, and intentionally or unintentionally, they abused me, which then made me worse.
The article suggests that when people are treated for mental health problems they are also given practical advice on how to protect themselves in social situations. However, the main focus of the article is that ATTITUDES TOWARDS WOMEN NEED TO CHANGE. Which is the focus of the White ribbon campaign, and also the V Day movement. When I was a teenager, I was given responsibilities that I didn't want and I felt I did not deserve. They were the responsibility to not let boys have sex with you, to not let boys get you pregnant, and to not let boys give you sexually transmitted diseases. It was just taken for granted that the role of the boys was to make us have sex, and subsequently it was. No one told them not to do it in the first place, no one told them to respect us, and no one told them that we knew we could be raped, and that's why we were scared. We weren't just cock teasing.
To summarise, there are a lot of positive things happening in the world, men and women working to try and stop violence against women. However, there are a lot of negative things still happening, and violence against women and mental health problems can go hand in hand. We probably ought to change the focus from telling girls to stop boys from doing things, to telling boys to fucking stop doing it in the first place.
P.S. A red hanky signifies you like fisting, a pink one means you like strap ons, and a white one means you like virgins. I did NOT make this up, I got it from a lesbian sex book.