This may be painful for many of you. Read with caution.
I'm about to give you a ton of statistics on violence and sexual assault of women. This is so that you can understand that the conversations I have with women are not at all unusual. Well, the fact the I have the honor to hear these stories is unusual. Most women don't talk about this ever. The reason I'm blogging about this is that I was very recently in a conversation about this and I want to share it with you. So here are the facts to start:
1 out of 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. -This is on every site about violence against women.
One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
(The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000. The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999)
Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. 30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.
(Allstate Foundation National Poll on Domestic Violence, 2006. Lieberman Research Inc., Tracking Survey conducted for The Advertising Council and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, July – October 1996)
From a HuffPo article 50 Facts About Domestic Violence:
I've added the original websites these statistics are taken from. So you can easily see the source.
Chance that a girl of high school age in the U.S. experiences violence in a dating relationship: 1 in 3
6 out of 10 rapes of young women occur in their own home or a friend or relative’s home
Ratio of women shot and killed by a husband or intimate partner compared to the total number of murders of men by strangers using any type of weapon, from 2002 homicide figures: 3X
Some Stats about Sexual Assault:
1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). -National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.
1 in 3 American women will be sexually abused during their lifetime. (George Mason University, Worldwide Sexual Assault Statistics, 2005)
1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. (Finkelhor et al., 1990)
Number of members of Congress who have gone through an educational training program on health, economics, violence, and gender norms: 0
This I just threw in because Congress keeps on insisting on regulating women's bodies but have 0 knowledge.
Also keep in mind these numbers are based off of reported assault...
A recent conversation
I was speaking to a dear friend recently and she mentioned how during one of her favorite practices (think meditation, yoga, church going) a memory was brought up. She had been going to her practice for years and it was something she did on an almost daily basis. But one day while she was practicing a memory of her ex-husband and his abuse came up. She thought she had forgotten it, it was years and years ago. She was so thrown off that she could barely concentrate for the rest of the practice.
We were talking later that day and she told me what had happened. She thought she would have to quit. She couldn't break the correlation now of her practice and that memory. Her body was visibly smaller. Her head tucked down between her shoulders and arms crossed. Tears in the corner of her eyes. Now this is a strong woman who raised two children on her own. It's long enough ago that her children have children so this isn't something that happened last week or a few years ago. She thought that she was over it. That the divorce and time had made it go away.
I hated that this memory could have so much impact on her life. That a memory from so long ago could take away the one piece of sanity in your day. It killed me to see her so hurt, and not only hurt from the memory but hurt that she was going to give up something she loved because now it was to painful for her. This is also why I feel the need to share this. Women need to know they aren't alone.
We spoke for an hour. I asked her a few questions and I'd like to ask them to you as well, I'm going to assume that everyone has a past trauma. I can honestly say that I don't know one single woman that hasn't been abused. My friend upon hearing that was speechless. She had no idea how prevalent abuse is in this society. Hence I gave you the above stats.
What past trauma affects your life? Your romantic life or otherwise.
In what ways does it affect you and/or your loved ones?
How much control are you will to let this past person/event continue to have over your current life?
What are you avoiding that brings you joy? or What haven't you tried due to fear?
Do you know that you can handle it?
Do you know that you are in fact strong enough to work thru it?
Are you ready to let go of the past and live in your present?
My friend was ready. She agreed that since this memory came up during her practice, that she loved so much that she would use that very practice to let it go. We spoke of meditation and how one of the meditations we both have used would be a perfect place to start. She was at her practice the next morning. When I saw her she gave me a big hug and big smile. I know that instead of burying the memory she will truly release the pain this time.
Find a support system. Don't do it alone. There are always people out there to help. There are support groups everywhere, find one in your area. I would give you links but for every kind of abuse and in every part of the world there is a different group. Find the one that fits for you. It doesn't even have to be in person, if you need to start with an online group.
You can always join a group of women, it can be a support group or a knitting group, or a yoga studio, or a meditation studio, or a women n wine group, or a hiking club. Anything you're interested in. Find a group of people who share your interests. Just having a safe place that you can be yourself is a huge step in the right direction.