One of Britain’s holy cows?

I stayed in a violent marriage for 16 years and if you pay any credence to Messent’s argument that makes me one of Britain’s holy cows.

I met my first husband when I was just 18. By the time I was 23 we had become a family of four. The violence started just after the birth of our first child and I was beaten on an almost daily basis for the following fourteen years.

Messent’s article suggests that women who stay in abusive relationships are somehow to blame for their abuse. She victim blames by suggesting that ‘women allow themselves to be used as punch bags’ and fails to identify the very real fact that many women feel that they have no real choices.

Messent ends by asking “Why, then, is it also the offence so many women baulk at taking to court, their silence perpetuating the evils used to control them?”. This statement in itself provides the answer to her argument but she fails to recognise it and her article does nothing more than assist in perpetuating the common myths associated to domestic violence.

The tons of research undertaken over the years shows that women in violent relationships are more often than not isolated from family and friends and usually left financially dependent on the abuser.  We also know that even if women were able to leave, they are too scared to leave. This fact is totally ignored by Messent and the fact that more than 70 percent of violence happens after a woman has left. Messent’s statement that “The women who allow themselves to be used as punch bags are often their own worst enemies.” clearly shows this.

The reality of abuse and more importantly the reasons for staying in an abusive relationship are far more complex than Messent’s simplistic argument offers. But using this simplistic approach – women in abusive relationships have no power.

The effects of domestic violence touches every aspect of your life. If being beaten, bitten and kicked on a daily basis isn’t bad enough, then there is the sexual violence. Beaten, raped and made to feel worthless. You are isolated. You are humiliated. If someone tells you enough times that it is your fault…you start beginning to believe it. You become an unwilling accomplice in hiding it from others. Yes there are days when you want to be beaten – as this is better than waiting all day for the inevitable beating. There are days when you want to be beaten so that your kids don’t witness it when they come home from school. There are days when you want to be beaten so that you don’t get dragged out of work, humilated and then beaten.

It is far too easy to question the reason that women ‘choose to stay’ and to blame women when they don’t report the abuse to the police but when you are living in a violent relationship there are quite simply no easy solutions.

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My invitation to a wondrous and beautiful place of return

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A warm welcome at Zawiyat al-Ma’ab al-Shadhiliya

I had a fantastic time at the official opening event of a new community asset in Hall Green. The Birmingham Shadhiliya Trust, a Sunni Sufi Muslim charity, took over the old hut that used to belong to the Sea Cadets.

This hut, and the land it sat on had been neglected for many years and both have now been transformed into a space that will offer the perfect home for many different activities.

Sunni Sufis follow a Sufi spiritual guide, Sheikh Nuh Keller, an American who converted to Islam in the 70s and was authorised as a master of the Hashamiya al-Darqawiya al-Shadhiliya Sufi order in the late 90s. Sufism is the form of Islam that focuses upon spirituality, mysticism, improving one’s inner state and serving others. This focus has been translated throughout the development and the building has been named Zawiyat al-Ma’ab al-Shadhiliya (A wondrous and beautiful place of return).

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Cllr Bowles, Kerry Jenkins and Birmingham Mayor, Mike Leddy

Lord Mayor, Mike Leddy undertook the official ceremony which was attended by members of the Trust, user groups, neighbours and councillors. We were treated to a falconry display, invited to have a go at archery, offered fabulous food and indulged with henna art.

With an unofficial motto of service before self’  – the  Sufi focus on spirituality, mysticism, improving one’s inner state and serving others was ever present and it was a day to remember and I am sure that a warmer welcome would be hard to find.

A number of activities have already been arranged with a scout group starting very soon, yoga classes and archery. I look forward to many further visits and getting involved in some of the activities that will be taking place over the coming months and urge others to take a look and see what is on offer.

The 1 in 5 Myth: Are youth services value for money?

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It is easy to look at the figure that only 1 in 5 young people (20%) use youth clubs and think something is wrong, but there’s a lot going on beneath a simple headline. Statutory youth services are only one part of an offer to young people, and that in fact the highest use of youth clubs in the E.U is Ireland where ‘26% of young people in Ireland participate in youth clubs or organizations.’ (NYCI, 2012) Yet the same report found youth service were excellent value for money. So what lies behind the 1 in 5 number?

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