I have a very blessed life, but the one thing I am missing is a fireplace. I love fireplaces and I haven’t had one in seven years and, well, I just can’t stand it any longer. So, God help me, we are getting quotes to install a fireplace in our little townhome.
My darling daughter number two, K, decided that before we put in a big boxy fireplace, we needed a mock-up of one made out of cardboard boxes. That way we could see how much bulk our great room could handle, and if, in fact, we wanted to go forth into the realm of fireplacehood.
We gathered a big box and a couple of little boxes and set off to make our mock fireplace. Working with those boxes got me to pondering. Pondering about the boxes women have been put into, and suffered through, for years. No, not just years, forever of years going back to our beginnings. And, boxes that many of us have dragged ourselves out of into some semblance of sanity.
There are numerous notable women who either grew up and crawled out of her box, or were never in a box to begin with. Those women are the ones we hear about in the media, in books, and on TV talk shows. But in comparison to the vast number of women in boxes over the eons of time humans have walked this earth, those notable women are but a drop of water on the outside corner of a box. Millions upon millions of young, young girls, up through women gray of hair, long of tooth, and full of wisdom are still in a box. Some boxes we make for ourselves out of our fears or insecurities. Other folks often put us in boxes we’d rather not inhabit, like when women couldn’t vote, or women could only be nurses or teachers. But more often than we wish to imagine in our wildest dreams, it is a box of longing and suffering. Longing to be out of the box, and suffering within the box without hope of ever getting out. And, in my humble opinion, the worst box for any woman is the box of domestic or partner abuse.
Some may say the box of rape is worse, or the box of discrimination in the workplace, or the box of lower salaries. I say it is the box of domestic or partner abuse because it is a box we can’t easily walk away from into some utopian world in our mind. Often we can’t walk away because our partner is stronger and bigger than we and intimidates us at every turn. They beat us when we displease them. They sexually rape us sometimes daily, surely several times weekly. Saying no to these partners only seems to fuel the fire of abuse in their belly. They verbally abuse us, denigrating us with terms such as “Bitch,” “Whore,” “Stupid,” “Idiot,” and a litany of other such abusive names. They take away our dignity and self-esteem until we often believe all of it is true and worse yet, we are to blame. It is a big box we are in with steep sides and no ladders to climb out on.
The statistics are staggering. Did you know that every day four women die as a result of physical abuse? In real numbers that is 1,460 women a year. In 2008 the Bureau of Justice statistics report that females aged 12 or older experienced about 552,000 non-fatal violent victimization? On average, according to the Center for Disease Control survey on domestic and sexual violence, “24 people per minute are the victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.” That’s 12.6 million people a year! Furthermore, over 1 million women are raped in a year and 6 million women and men are the victims of stalking. Staggering numbers by anyone’s count.
This is one helluva big box and those are only the ones we know about and the ones in the United States. Those are only the ones reported. I know my abuse was never reported nor was the abuse my mother-in-law suffered for almost 50 years. How many millions more women are in this box of domestic or partner abuse, screaming on the inside, bearing it on the outside, longing for the fresh freedom of sanity and safety. A world where there is no more pain or suffering. Remember, those numbers are only our United States statistics and only for partner violence. There is a much larger world of violence and abuse against women out there.
What about the rest of the world? A world where we know that women are devalued to a greater extent than here in America and suffer unbelievable pain at the hands of men and their laws. A world in which women are stoned to death for adultery or suffer genital mutilation where girls, babies actually, often die from the procedure. A place like Kabul where a young woman who was serving a sentence for adultery after being raped by a relative was forced to marry her rapist in order to get out of jail. Shameful. I imagine those broader geographic numbers and crimes against women would be so overwhelmingly unimaginable that they would turn our stomachs inside out until we vomited blood.
There is a glimmer of hope, however, here in the states. The Bureau of Justice statistics states that the rate of intimate partner victimization against females declined 53 percent between 1993 and 2008. That is a significant decline. What this says to me is that either less women are reporting abuse, which I doubt, or there is a real decline due to education and outlets/programs for women to turn to when they finally crawl over the edge of that box and seek help. We need more of these avenues of help because 47 percent is still too high a number and too high a price for a woman to pay just for being born female.
Boxes are not all cardboard in which to make fake fireplaces, but intangible walls around women strangling and killing them. They need to be torn down, broken up, and thrown away so that women never have to fear for their life or lose themselves in the sewage of a raging partner ever again.