Thursday, January 27, 2005

39 beautiful, brave, bruised and battered women

I'm going to Åbo, the city where I studied and lived for 6 years, tomorrow. I'm returning my key to the local office of National Women's Line in Finland. I used to do volunteer work there, supporting women facing domestic violence who called our help-line. Numerous are the nights I've thought about the stories I've been told and the women telling them. Sometimes I've wondered how I can help them getting away from a life with an ultra fine line between love and pure rage, from limited life space, control and violence way, way beond my comprehension. I often realized though that once she, often all battered and bruised, finally dared make the phone call to the hot line (four out of ten women never ever tell anybody what they're exposed to), a non-judging, caring and listening human being did wonders.

Numerous are also the nights I've thought about what's inside the head of someone, who feels that a woman is something you own and is to be controlled. Where would someone get the idea that it's ok to hit her or hurt her verbally? To rob her her freedom, her selfesteem and individuality, and completely disempower someone?

As I've moved away from Åbo, and thus not working for the Women's Line anymore, I'm turning in my key. And in Vasa where I live today, there are no such voluntary movement or organization helping and supporting women experiencing violence. It's truly itching inside as I still want to contribute to this enormous global social problem, but my channels are quite limited! I've noticed that I talk about domestic violence a lot more nowadays, perhaps that's my unconscious way of doing my share.

The government is also trying to do something about the profound problem. A proposition (in Finnish here) for a national program for reducing violence in Finland was just put forward. According to the report, the Finns are not more violent than others but significantly more die due to violence here than elsewhere in Europe. Between the years 1999-2003 134 Finns died due to violence, which equates 2,6 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. The average in EU is 1,3 per 100,000.

As for violence directed at women, 39 women were killed every year 1999-2003 as a direct consequence of violence. Often by their boyfriends, husbands or exes. This equates 1,4 deceased per 100,000 women in Finland, where as the same figure for the EU is 0,75. Sad, so sad, figures. We have such a long way to go. Such a long way.

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