(CNN Spanish) — On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, one number is enough to measure the problem: more than one in three women in the world has suffered physical or sexual violence during her life. And this statistic is prior to the pandemic, which has only made the situation worse. To combat gender violence, it is key to learn to recognize it and know what you can do in a situation of violence, whether you are the victim or part of their support network. However, is it possible to prevent violence against women?
CNN Español spoke on this topic with Leah Tandeter, a specialist in the Eradication of Violence Against Women from the UN Women Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean, and with Ángel Manuel Turbi, PhD in Psychology and Health Sciences from the Catholic University of Valencia “San Vicente Mártir”. Here are some keys to the conversation.
Early detection to prevent the pattern from repeating itself
The key to preventing young and adult men from developing violent behavior is “guaranteeing violence-free lives for all girls and boys,” Tandeter explains to CNN en Español. “If from childhood we develop in a context of peace and security, both in the private space and in the public space, we considerably increase the possibility that these girls and boys will not reproduce violence later in their lives.”
There is evidence that patterns of domestic violence are repeated from generation to generation. An investigation carried out by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2017 concludes that “the possibility that an adult woman experiences physical violence by her partner is, on average, 12 percentage points higher if she witnessed physical violence perpetrated against his mother”. And this has not necessarily changed over the years: the IDB maintains that the risk of a woman who witnessed violence being a victim remains, whether she was born in 1970 or 1990.
“The best way to avoid this repetition is early detection (of situations of violence) for early intervention. The sooner the minor receives help, the greater the probability of developing as a mentally healthy adult,” Turbi explains to CNN en Español .
And this implies, when faced with a situation, intervening quickly whether the children are also victims of the violence or if they are spectators.
“The minor victims who have been exposed to these situations can develop psychopathology such as post-traumatic stress or other emotional traumas, it is important that they receive professional help, while providing helpful and trusting relationships with adults, working on self-concept and self-esteem, as well such as fostering healthy relationships with the peer group, reducing risk factors and promoting protective ones”, he explains.
The place of mixed sport and women in science
Part of the structural change that societies need to end violence against women and girls is an education system “free of gender stereotypes,” explains Tandeter.
On many occasions, the stories of women who broke down barriers and made their way into spaces where men have traditionally been more visible, for example science, stand out because of what this means in terms of rights. However, it is also linked to violence. “Mixed sports activities and female leadership figures in the classroom in the areas of science, technology, as well as in sports spaces, have shown a positive effect on children who develop masculinities free of gender-based violence,” says Tandeter.
recognize the signs
Prevention does not mean in any way trying to control the behavior of the perpetrator. “If there is a serious risk, it is best to move away, although you are not always prepared for it (fear, guilt or, in many cases, affective dependencies). What is more than recommended is to look for a support network (relatives, trusted friends) where you can verbalize the problem”. It is important that women know and feel that they are not alone.
However, it is vitally important to be able to detect the first signs of abuse, because if they are noticed and verbalized and acted on, some of the consequences of violence can be avoided. Among these signs, based on the recommendations of the Government Delegation against Gender Violence, of the Government of Spain, the following stand out:
- Frequently ignores or dismisses your feelings
- Ridicules, insults, or belittles women in general
- Humiliates, yells at, or insults you in private or in public
- Threatens to harm you or your family
- Has he ever physically assaulted you?
- Isolates you from family and/or friends
- Has forced you to have sex against your will
- He controls your money and makes decisions for you
- does not allow you to work
- Threatens to take away your daughters and sons if you leave
- Control your way of dressing
- You do not express your opinions freely for fear of their reaction
- Check your mobile phone and social networks
- You continually feel inferior or less than him
- Frequently shows jealousy
- You have stopped going out with your circle of friends because he “does not like them”
How can men be allies in prevention?
“Men are almost always the perpetrators of violence against women and girls. According to studies conducted on the perpetration of violence, men are responsible for the vast majority of acts of violence committed both in Latin America and the Caribbean as in the world”, explains Tandeter.
Some figures put this reality in context. According to a comparative study of 12 countries in the region, between 13.4% and 52.3% of women who have ever had a relationship suffered physical violence from an intimate male partner, says the expert.
Men, who in many contexts continue to occupy a large part of the positions of power, may be complicit in the perpetuation of existing social norms that legitimize violence. And this can be done not only by those who are aggressors, says the expert, but also by those who, without directly exercising violence or openly supporting the current regulations, do not do anything to question them either.
However, men can also be allies in prevention. “LMen can do much more than stop being part of the problem, since they can also be part of the solution”, he says. And he explains it in the following way: “Men have the opportunity to influence the behavior of those around them, especially other men, whether through their role in families, at work, as bystanders, or through various positions of power they hold. in society. They can also actively work to change existing social norms for new ones. Lastly, engaging men can ease the burden on women to prevent violence against women and girls.”
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