By Jessica, See the Triumph Contributor
Moving through different countries during my twenties, I was consistently drawn to groups of women that had a community strength about them - the ones where you are welcomed in as a daughter or a sister, called “my dear” in the mother tongue, and taught to make the traditional family meal. My eyes were also drawn to the subtle signs of injustices occurring towards women in these cities, towns, and villages. Whether it was remnants of forced sex work, the whispers of familial violence, or the shadows of sexual abuse, the traces of women’s stories and their survival were there. These issues flew under the radar, quashed by cultural traditions, deep-seated gender imbalances, and biased solutions.
As a survivor, I am accustomed to violence against women being interpreted as an uncomfortable topic. If a story comes up, the breath is taken out of the conversation. In media, favor is given to the abuser while we pick away at the survivor’s story, accusing them of everything but being a victim. As a world citizen, I am bombarded by tales of pain and sadness and at the end of each day, it can often seem the world is hopeless, that there is no way to help, and we see anything but triumph.
But if there is anything I’ve learned from the women I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard, it’s that triumph is everywhere - and it is a beautiful thing to behold. Triumph might resound like an echo between two mountains, or be quiet like the flutter of butterflies’ wings among the garden flowers. Triumph grows in kitchens with lovingly-made meals that carry with them a long legacy of women healing and surviving with each other. Triumph flourishes on the living room floor, connecting and laughing together with knees folded on bright cushions, and sparks during intimate conversations with a friend who says “I believe you” and takes your hand. Triumph is in the satisfaction of doing something she wasn't allowed to and no longer feeling the anxiety and shame. Triumph is the justice found in custody battles and the journalist who gets it right. We see triumph alive on the Internet with community forums and in comments and posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where girls and women of all nationalities find their common threads and rally together.
Behind closed doors around the globe are girls and women of lioness strength, steadfastly navigating what it means to survive and triumph over violence; seeing the triumph is happening every day and everywhere in communities of women, big and small, that band together and say “no more” for each other.
Triumph is survivors taking on the world in their own way, as it means to them, surrounded by a global community that understands and sees the triumph with her. No matter who we are, we can choose to see no hope, or we too can choose to see the triumph.
By Ezgi Toplu Demirtaş, See the Triumph International Ambassador
As a form of dating violence, psychological violence, is least known and visible, but most prevalent. To illustrate the dynamics of dating violence in Turkey, what follows is a story of love that turned into a story of violence in less than a year. This story one Turkish dating violence survivors’ illustrates some unique local factors in dealing with dating violence. The words of this survivor, who is a female college student in her early 20s, are as follows:
“The relationship was exciting, passionate, fascinating…to begin with. He told me what to wear or not. I thought he was raised in a more conservative region, and he was jealous of me. He then interfered with the way I talk to the other people and controlled my social media accounts, such as ‘Who’s this guy, and where do you know him from? I am deleting him on FB.’
“We were constantly arguing the jealousy issues. He made me think that I should be a better partner. It was all about me, not him. I was his first partner, but he was not mine. This was another problematic issue. He continuously was talking about my previous relationships, which made me further feel guilty. Why wasn’t I his first? If I had been his first, then we would have a great, problem-free relationship. I and my previous relationships were to blame.
“I still had some self esteem before he criticized my appearance and belittled me in front of others. I thought he was just kidding, but it hurt. I now know that I am beautiful, tall, and with looks that are very rare in this country. But it was not enough to him.
“Then, I realized that I was so alone with no friends, because he had all of my time. We were doing everything together, and he tried to stop me from seeing my friends. I had no one to share except him. I had no choice to go to social events, because there were men there, and he thought they were all potential partners. He then went further and forced me to wear a hijab because his family was conservative and religious, and they wouldn’t accept me without it, even he does. He was from conservative city, and I was from a more liberal city.
“Furthermore, he wanted me to appreciate him because he was spending all his time with me. I was becoming more and more unhappy, fragile, and less tolerant. We were arguing all the time. He was swearing, insulting, and ridiculing me. He slapped me a few times, but I told nobody because they would tell me to leave. He always was saying that he had a hard life and needed me. I felt guilty when I thought about leaving the relationship. I was cruel, according to him. I stopped wearing makeup and being stylish.
“Then I read an article about dating violence. I became aware that I was a victim of dating violence. I cried a lot. I cried a lot that moment. The reason was not the violence. I asked myself why I allowed him to do all these things to me. I tried to leave a few times, but every time, he promised me to change and fix himself, and I turned back.
“Now I think that he turned back because I was alone. At the time, I thought, ‘He made me like I am, an ugly, alone women. I can do nothing without him. Nobody would love me like him.’ My first efforts to leave were unsuccessful, but I did not give up.
“I talked to one of my instructors and old friends and family, and I asked for their help and support. I still do not feel I have completely left him behind, because he still tries. But I know what I want, not an abusive relationship. He has not changed and won’t change.
“Sometimes I question if I can call myself survivor? But, as a survivor, I want to say something to the victims of dating violence. You deserve a healthier, better, and happier relationship, and you do not even need a relationship to be happy. You are all strong and beautiful. You are a woman, you are a unique person. Accept yourself, accept who you are. Do not accept the woman he tries to change into that you don’t want to be. An abusive relationship is not love. Jealousy is not love. It is violence.”
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
October is always an advocacy-charged time of the year. With it being both Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, there is a fair share of advocacy and activist work being done. October’s a month where splashes of pink and purple can be seen all over your community. It’s a time where we celebrate women that we love and health concerns that we hope to change. But here’s the problem: Talking about any issue for only a month won’t really change the issue.
Talking about domestic violence for one month a year is not going to even put a dent in the issue. Discussing physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse one month per year will not help the estimated 42.4 million women in the United States who have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime (NCADV).* It’s not enough for the woman who blames herself to cope with the abuse she faces at home. It's not enough for the man who is ashamed to call the police after being beaten by his partner for fear that he will be stigmatized. It is not enough for the teen who identifies ‘red flags’ within her relationship, yet is unable to realize that these may lead to abuse. I can assure you that even hearing about domestic violence for 21 years was not enough for my 21-year-old self when I witnessed the brutal bruises that my best friend would receive from her partner.
It’s my stance that history has proven that talking about domestic violence for only a month has yet to improve the state of violence against women. Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed 1987, yet nearly 30 years later the rates of both women and men dealing with this issue are not only alarming, but downright terrifying.
Raising awareness is a great start to the work that remains to be done, but it isn’t something that is going to trigger a cultural change. Abusers do not just stop committing violent acts after October 31st; yet, for some reason the national outcry of support and understanding does.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that, for one month a year, folks are emotionally charged about domestic violence. It excites me--it gives me hope. Nonetheless, my work as an advocate doesn’t end when DVAM ends, nor should our nation’s focus on this issue. But that’s just it--We as a society often are only focusing on the problem for one month a year. Domestic violence affects each and every member of our nation, every day, regardless of if people identify as a victim or not. Domestic violence affects our children’s educations, our communities, our economy and, more importantly, it’s affecting people we know--our friends, family, and colleagues.
An incredible aspect of domestic violence is that it’s 100% preventable. This means that we need to dedicate time, money, energy and heart way more than just in October to end this public health epidemic. As we begin to prepare to promote DVAM, I ask you to speak up, join the cause, paint your hair purple, volunteer at a local shelter, donate food or clothing to local DV agencies--Do all you can do to support the cause. DVAM is an important time of year, but remember it’s just the opening segment of a conversation that needs to be had all the time.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: http://www.ncadv.org/
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
She’s in disbelief.
She looks into the mirror, face sunken and smeared with mascara and blames herself.
Why did she wear that outfit?
Why did she hand you her drink?
Why did she trust you?
She lies up at night and blames herself.
Why did she hand you her glass of pink rose?
Why why did she chose those jeans, the pair with the rip above the knee?
Why did she take the seat next to you on the first day of class?
She sits through class and blames herself.
Why did she willingly hand you her glass of pink rose for 45 seconds?
Why did she chose that shirt, the one that brings out her eyes?
Why did she hang out with you the entire first semester and call you her best friend?
She slinks down at the dining hall table and blames herself.
Why did she trust you enough to think it was okay to give you her glass of pink rose for 45 seconds while she when to the restroom?
Why did she try to show off her curves on a night where she was finally feeling confident in her own skin?
Why did she ever let her guard down and trust a man knowing well-and-good he was sure to let her down just like her father had so many times before.
She sits on her bed and finally starts to forgive herself.
Why did he purposefully tell me to drink up?
Why did he maliciously slip a pill into my glass of pink rose, when holding it for only 45 seconds?
Why did he chose to target me that night?
Why did he decide to shatter my trust and rape me?
She looks in the mirror for the first time in a long time and doesn’t have the urge to punch her own reflection.
For the first time she knows she is not to blame.
She’s a survivor.
He is a rapist.
That is the way it will always remain.
By Isabell Schuster, See the Triumph International Ambassador
Sexual violence is a serious problem all over the world, affecting the survivor’s well-being in different negative ways. Although sexual victimization is highly prevalent among women and recent studies suggest that it also affects men in a considerable proportion, the issue of sexual violence is still not getting the attention and awareness that it should get.
A recent study with college students in Germany (Krahé & Berger, 2013) has shown that it is highly prevalent with one out of three women and one out of five men reporting that they experienced sexual activities against their will since the age of 14, the age of consent in Germany. Normally, less than 10% of the incidents are reported to the police, with an even smaller conviction rate.
Perpetrators are most commonly intimate partners or friends, making one’s home not the safe place that it should be. However, myths about sexual violence skew the perception of this phenomenon by suggesting that perpetrators are in most cases strangers who attack women in a park when it is dark. Moreover, not only the personal perception but also legislation may be influenced by these myths. For example, until 1997 marital rape was not covered by German law.
What is considered sexual victimization in a legal standpoint was debated recently in Germany. For years, survivors had to prove that the perpetrator used physical violence, threat of imminent danger to life, or took advantage of a situation where the survivor was at the perpetrator's mercy. A ‘no’ was not sufficient. But a few weeks ago, the German parliament passed a new law, clarifying that ‘no means no’. Women’s organizations put efforts for years to change this law but especially recent events and developments in Germany have pushed the topic into the spotlight.
First, there was a wave of attacks, including sexual violence, at New Years Eve and second, a case of non-conviction became a high media presence since there was a video of the incident where non-consent was expressed. This prompted a campaign for a law reform ‘no means no’. Finally, a few weeks ago the law passed with a huge number of MP in favor for this vote, meaning a big step forward for German law, society, and especially survivors.
Krahé, B., & Berger, A. (2013). Men and women as perpetrators and victims of sexual aggression in heterosexual and same-sex encounters: A study of first-year college students in Germany. Aggressive Behavior, 39, 391–404. doi:10.1002/ab.21482