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The submerged part of the Iceberg

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29 January 2020

A text written by a community worker of La Méridienne for the 12 days of action  2019 against violence against women. This text was published in the local paper of Sherbrooke Entré-Libre.

In Quebec, every year, about a dozen women die at the end of their spouses, intimate partners or ex-lovers. The majority of women and girls victims of murders were killed in a family context, and half of them lived through relationship violence.

Romantic relationships represent a real danger for health and security of many women. Why is that? Why is the rate of domestic homicide involving a female victim still three to four times higher than that involving a male victim? Why are so many women being killed by those who are supposed to love and protect them?

Because they are women?

The headlines of so-called crimes of passion committed in the context of a romantic relationship that appear with disturbing regularity in the media often leave us perplexed. How to explain that a man apparently quite normal, functional and socially adapted can come to make such an appalling gesture? The absence of a logical explanation leads us to believe that the perpetrator of the murder was the victim of a fit of madness or lost control following serious faults committed by the victim. In fact, the spousal murders reported by the media represent only the very tip of the iceberg of a much deeper and widespread phenomenon in our society and which gives all its meaning to these acts of extreme violence.

Because, no lover kills his wife, like that, overnight, out of anger or madness. This lover does not lose control. He takes it.

It is in the privacy of homes, out of sight, that the submerged part of the iceberg is found, a reality experienced by a hard to calculate number of women who will never make the headlines but who live a real daily hell.

Behind every murder is a love story. Indeed, without attachment, without a relationship of trust, no psychological influence is possible. This influence, which allows certain romantic partners to ensure the total availability of the loved one to meet their needs, gradually settles in the relationship in the form of manipulation, control and devaluation. This violence, often subtle, aims to destabilize and undermine the autonomy, self-confidence and self-esteem of the victim. Over time, emotional abuse lays the groundwork for dominance and opens the door to increasingly intense forms of abuse (verbal, social, financial, sexual and physical) that allow the abuser to obtain and maintain his dominance over her. When she refuses, questions or tries to escape this control, for example by wanting to end the relationship, the violence can escalate to the point of putting her life and that of those close to her in danger.

We still live in a world where violence against women is a manifestation of power exercised by men who aim to subjugate, control or use them. If women are taking up more and more space in social and professional life, the relationships of domination between men and women continue to wreak havoc within couples and families.

The power inequalities that exist between men and women in society are expressed in the private sphere, within many couples. What appears to be an isolated problem, a marital conflict that has gone awry, is in fact a problem that stems directly from cultural values ​​that trivialize discrimination and inequalities between men and women. Indeed, as long as many men believe that it is legitimate to expect a woman to meet all their needs, expectations and desires without having to consider her own, and as long as many women continue to believe that their own wants and needs matter less than those of others, violence will continue to be justifiable in their eyes.

As a society, as long as we deny, trivialize, minimize or refuse to see these inequalities, we contribute to putting women’s lives at risk.

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