When I published F1 last Tuesday, I advised to buckle up for F2. I am honoured to know Nancy through the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Empowerement. She is one dynamic entrepreneur and author, one who has indeed made a remarkable victory over voilence and is now imapcting several other women including my modest self.
Domestic Violence and Codes of Silence, By Nancy Salamone (A Former Wallstreet Executive)
Domestic violence is a social disease that carries with it a “culture of silence”. In fact if you Google “culture of silence and domestic violence” you get over 1.7 million returns. Domestic violence is still one of the most under-reported crimes and it is the culture of silence that shames women (and yes even men), into enduring domestic violence.
I know firsthand about the insidious nature of a “culture of silence”. I was brought up in a Sicilian Roman Catholic family in New York. And the code of silence pervasive in Sicilian culture is known as Omerta. Omerta is a popular attitude and code of honor common in areas of southern Italy (such as Sicily), where criminal organizations like the Mafia are strong. A common definition of “omerta” is “code of silence.” A frequent misconception is that the Mafia created omerta. In fact, Sicilians adopted the code long before the emergence of the Cosa Nostra. Some date omerta to the sixteenth century, when it was used as a way of opposing Spanish rule. To this day, for generations of Sicilians, this code is alive and operative.
It is that code of silence that kept me from divulging to anyone the abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex-husband. I endured the abuse for 20 years. Part of the reason I never told anyone about the abuse I endured was in part because of my Sicilian background, which instructed us to, “Carry your cross in silence.” You don’t tell anyone anything that might embarrass you or your family. And that’s what I did.
It is not just Sicilian culture that has a code of silence. In a recent article I read about life in Estonia under Soviet rule, the author talks about how in school, girls had to be silent and polite. The reason was that girls were perceived to be the “stupid ones”. Their role was to be pretty. Women were brainwashed into believing they are not worth much. If you are brought up to believe you are worthless then it is not unusual for you to remain silent about domestic violence as you are “brainwashed” into believing “you deserve” to be abused. (http://www.datelinebaltics.org/2014/04/24/a-culture-of-silence/)
In the Muslim culture it is not unusual for women who gather the courage to report domestic violence to be told to go back to their abusers for the sake of the family and honor and to forgive their spouse and be patient with him. It is no surprise that if a woman does not get the support she needs when she has the courage to speak out, she then remains silent.
Nigeria has a history of violence against women and in part due to a culture of silence that forces young girls to become child brides and endure rape and domestic violence. Gender violence in Nigeria is an epidemic and according to activists the culture of silence, weak laws and lack of support for victims of violence against women and girls are some of the reasons. Probably the same applies for Cameroon, Africa and the world at large.
In the United States the NFL (http://www.nfl.com/) (National Football League) for years covered up domestic violence crimes committed by some of their players. It was not until a despicable video surfaced depicting a major player punching his fiancée in an elevator and knocking her unconscious, did the NFL decide to address the issue. A major reason the NFL had to address domestic violence in their league was due to a huge public outcry. If the video had not surfaced I believe the culture of silence would still persist in the NFL. After the incident many NFL wives have spoken reported how the NFL has not only covered up domestic violence but also nurtured it.
Cultures of silence exist around the world and force m illions of women (and men), to believe there is no way out of abusive situations. These cultures of silence exist regardless of the strength of a country’s advocacy. It is up to all of us to speak out loud and clear “Enough is Enough” when it comes to domestic violence.