For reference, we had women from all over Europe answer these questions, for example from Estonia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, France and Spain. The ages also varied from 14 to 23 and also women over 50 years old.
To gain a better insight, we asked women about how many types of abuses they were aware of. Fortunately almost every one of them knew all 3 types of abuse (psychological, physical, sexual), but there were also some who didn’t know any of them.
Continuing, the questionnaire elaborated on women's personal experiences, starting off with a “yes or no” question, if the women had experienced any type of abuse in their lives previously. 81% of the women did answer yes to this question, which means, according to our survey, that 4 women out of 5 have experienced some type of abuse in their lifetime.
From the women who answered “yes” to the previous question we also asked them about the age, when they first experienced abuse. The youngest answer we got was 11 and in general the ages ranged between 14-16, meaning during women’s minor years.
Exactly 50% of the women, who answered, have previously experienced street harassment (including catcalling; catcall : a shrill whistle or shout of disapproval made at a public meeting or performance.). In addition 4 women had experienced physical harm, unwanted sexual advances and cyber-harassment. It turned out that 6 women had also experienced psychological abuse and there were some who had experienced stalking, marital rape, forced sexual acts, child sexual abuse and economical abuse.
As we learned more about the campaign we realised that 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner, which is why we included the question “What was the relationship with the abuser?”. 56% of the answers revealed that most often the abuser is a stranger, but there were also cases where it was an intimate partner (boyfriend or husband) as well as a family member on two occasions and some of the women, who answered were colleagues with their abuser(s).
When it comes to women, who have experienced any type of abuse it is always vital to talk about it, but many of them don’t feel safe nor comfortable doing so. Fortunately 75% women, who answered to our questionnaire have spoken up about their experiences and usually they open up to their friends and family and feel comfortable talking/sharing their experiences with their female friends.
We also got answers of speaking about it to male friends/family to raise awareness and to their significant others too. There are also specific forums and organisations for women, who have gone through abuse and some of the women did talk about their experiences in said places.
As to the women, who had not spoken up about it, they said that the shame and feeling uncomfortable is holding them back. The reason other’s have not spoken up about it, was because of fear of the other person diminishing their experience and turning the situation against them - into victim blaming.
Oftentimes women do not feel safe walking alone at night, which came up on our questionnaire as well, resulting in over half of the responses to say that they also do not feel safe walking alone at night. Therefore we asked them to tell us about what measures they have taken to feel safer in real life situations.
We got answers of women carrying pepper spray(or hair spray) or keys with them, taking self-defense classes, calling somebody whilst walking alone or fake-calling, avoid walking around late at night by themselves, avoiding people they do not know and dark alleys, taking thai boxing classes, speed up their pace or start running if they feel too unsafe.
Some women also pretend to be a minor to be left alone or say that they have a boyfriend, to be left alone by the harasser. Which is interesting how “I have a boyfriend” is the most effective argument when being harassed, because they will respect a man they do not know, before they respect the woman they are talking to.
To finish off the questionnaire we wanted to know how many women felt unsafe in the company of men (either strangers or people they know) versus in the company of women (either strangers or people they know). Almost 70% of responses said that they have felt unsafe in the company of men, whereas only 6% have felt unsafe in the company of women.
I believe these numbers speak volumes and there is a lot to be done when it comes to eliminating violence against women and it is needed to be taken more seriously. I’m glad that the United Nations have an annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
If you have experienced abuse, feel threatened, unsafe or need assistance, please see the list of country help lines by clicking this link https://www.endvawnow.org/en/need-help .
Information about violence against women during COVID-19 (most frequently asked questions for those who are in need of help and for those wanting to help) https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-violence-against-w omen
An interactive webpage to learn more about violence against women, created by the United Nations:
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