One Billion Rising: working together to end exploitation and domination

By Jill Segger
February 14, 2013

It is a truly terrible statistic: one in three women will experience violence at the hands of men at some time in their lives. This represents around one billion individuals and today – when so many are celebrating the gentler aspect of relationships between men and women – the One Billion Rising movement attempts to bring people together across 200 countries to call for change. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17999)

Violence against women takes many forms. Rape, beatings, trafficking and enslavement, destructive and terrible though they are, form only part of the spectrum of cruelty and disdain which is culturally embedded in so many societies. From female genital mutilation and the aborting of female foetuses to the casual, everyday sexism which most of us encounter on an almost daily basis, a failure to acknowledge our common humanity and equal worth damages both the oppressors and those who experience oppression.

The challenge of One Billion Rising has made me reflect on my own experience and my place within the statistics. I have twice been assaulted – on both occasions by a stranger who acted opportunistically. But I have never had to live with ongoing brutality, belittling or contempt for my rights. Random occurrences are more easily put in perspective as the years pass although they leave their mark. What it must be like to be subject to assault and the demeaning of one's bodily integrity as a regular experience is all but beyond my imagining.

When I was subject to an attempted rape as as an undergraduate, just turned 18, and entirely without sexual experience, I was saved by my initial response of rage - this was not going to be my first sexual encounter – and, to my astonishment, I committed the first, and I hope only, violent action of my life. I hit my assailant in the groin with a heavy leather-bound volume of Bach's Chorales and ran. It was only later that I began to realise how nervous and distrustful the attack had made me. I think it realistic to say that it delayed my willingness to form intimate relationships for several years.

This is now far enough behind me to permit a dispassionate view. My emotional life is secure and has been sufficiently blessed in love, friendship, and professional confidence to confirm my value as an individual who just happens to have two X chromosomes. But for so many women, subjugation and violence is not just an unpleasant memory, ameliorated by the predominance of trusting and respectful relations with men. It is a daily reality and apart from the fear of physical harm and humiliation, it gnaws at the perception of their unique and eternal value. They are in real danger of becoming the chattel and receptacle which their persecutors desire.

This should not happen to anyone. Where individuals or cultural institutions seek to dominate, they deform the flow of enrichment which should exist between people. They deprive themselves of that gift and forfeit their own fulfilment in pursuit of immediate gratification and advantage. Bitterness and mistrust is engendered and healthy, life-giving relationship impaired. Where women live under physical, cultural, political, and economic oppression, we are all diminished, men women and children alike.

As flash mobs, dance rallies and art festivals take place all over the UK in support of One Billion Rising, let us not lose sight of this fact – we need each other and must learn how to work together to change the attitudes which make domination and exploitation possible.

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen

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