This week I felt an old familiar sense of shame. It was an emotion hidden, and meant to be blocked from the outside world. I had felt it many times during my childhood when I saw men in my life beating women, and those women hiding what was happening from everyone they knew.
Recently a celebrity singer made some public statements against another male musician, regarding his violent behaviour towards her. Almost instantly there were many people commenting on her social media pages, some showing support, and some criticising her for damaging the man’s reputation.
I don’t know if the male musician has committed a violent act or not. I wasn’t present when the reported incident occurred. However the derogatory harassment of the woman making the allegations is making me feel ill.
Even the most empathetic of people can understand that not all allegations made are true. However, I know few women who could see a personal benefit in publicly calling out a male on violence, other than as a request for help.
Yet over the last week the singer has been referred to as an attention seeker, a liar and branded as some sort of charlatan, who is looking to profit from whatever has occurred. All this has happened while the man involved has issued a general apology for his behaviour, and has stated he will be seeking help for mental health issues.
Some of the commenters have even stooped so low as to bring up the woman’s racial background – as reason for why she may be, in their view, lying about what occurred. The whole situation really highlights the depths that social media comments can plunge to.
Most importantly though these events again open the curtains to violence in our society, and have shown, in an open public forum, the difficulties women can face when calling out men on unacceptable violent behaviour.
These attitudes are why I experienced and witnessed violence as a child, and why the women I knew rarely to never said anything, to anyone, about it. It’s evident that people criticising a woman for reporting violent male behaviour are, for the most part, trying to protect a man that is a friend or family member. What they don’t understand is that by trying to help, they may be perpetuating an environment of shame that allows further violence to occur.
So many women today still don’t come forward about violence as they fear they won’t be believed. They fear backlash. They even fear they will damage the perpetrators reputation. This can lead to years of abuse, suffering and in extreme cases, deaths.
What needs to happen is abundantly clear to me. Firstly women should never be criticised for reporting violence against them. Secondly an allegation is simply that, our legal systems are robust, meaning they are able to determine fact from fiction with great accuracy. Lastly if we wish to support someone who is facing an allegation, then that help should be supportive, and not attacking the person making the allegation.
If we are to bring an end to violence against women in our society, we must begin by creating a safe environment for people to seek safety and support. It is so shocking that in a modern community we would blame the potential victims for their actions, when there is so much evidence that it is part of the problem to do so. Every little girl and grown woman we know deserves that comfort, and it is within all of us to make sure they have it.