-Mum, I really like Alex, because even though he sometimes hurts me and is rude to me, he always gives me presents.
This phrase could and should alarm anyone. It is clearly a declaration from a battered woman looking to exculpate or minimize the aggression based on the “benefits” obtained thereafter.
It is quite common that an offensive man, after committing a physical or emotional grievance, will try to compensate the assaulted party with gifts ranging from flowers or chocolates, to jewelry or even trips. Basically, one could say that the size of the gift is proportional to the misconduct committed. But these compensations, that are given as a reparation for the emotional or physical damage caused, are a way to highlight a fictitiously benevolent and lavish condition in order to obscure the dark side of the relationship.
A worrisome fact of the declaration with which this text begins, is that it was said by my five-year-old daughter, referring to a classmate that is in fact abusive and aggressive, not just to her, but to all of their classmates. Hearing her narration of how, after she was pushed and hurt by her “friend”, the boy’s mom just said (to her, not to him) not to cry, that she should go play with the rest of the children and the fact that she said nothing to her son is troubling enough, but that she buys him a box of chocolates or a doll for my daughter as means of an apology, is a clear reflection of how gender-based violence is normalized since early childhood.
We are normalizing gender-based violence, we are sending a wrong message to future generations, the same we were given and that today is taxing us highly with battered women and feminicides, because in the end, nothing happens.
There was no reprimand or a reflective sermon in the moment of the aggression, we didn’t hear the so common phrase “apologize to her”. There was an attempt to distract (the classical “go play, let’s go get some candy, nothing happened”) and there certainly was a clear “bribe”, or at least an attempt to do so, in exchange for silence or not making a bigger problem. What happens with these attitudes? What happens with the assaulted girl? What happens with the aggressor boy? Maybe giving victim and victimizer labels to five year olds is strong, but it undoubtedly is the truth.
It is something I had never thought of until I saw it with mother’s eyes. It made me recall all the times we have said and heard the phrase “if he teases you, he likes you”. What an awry message; we are perhaps teaching girls that violence is justified as love. I thought of the times my girl came looking for me to “accuse her friend” and I, out of prudence, because the boy is part of the group, because they go to the same school, because they go to the same parties, because we’re part of the same social circle, did nothing to defend her, other than distance her from the boy at the moment and minimize the damage. It wasn’t until she uttered the exact words I quoted up on the text, that I realized the severity of the situation.
My daughter is learning that if a man is to mistreat her but then rewards her with something, then everything is fine. That people do not care about these kinds of allegations, that exposing abuse is useless, if in addition your parents, your main guardians, won’t act accordingly. The boy is learning that it won’t matter if he hurts a woman as long as he gives her presents afterwards. That he doesn’t have to apologize because, in the end, nothing happens. That his actions have no consequences, that it doesn’t matter how violent he is, she will always forgive him, and things will stay the same.
Let’s educate men that respect women, and let’s educate women who know how to raise their voice. For a tomorrow with equity and free of gender-based violence
We are normalizing gender-based violence, we are sending a wrong message to future generations, the same we were given and that today is taxing us highly with battered women and feminicides, because in the end, nothing happens. Let’s stop for a moment: let’s think of what they feel, not us. If for us a push or a scratch can mean nothing, for them it was pain, it was impotence, and it was learning.
Why won’t battered women take distance from their aggressors? Because we have fundamentally grown up knowing that “the one that loves you will make you suffer”, “if he beats you is because he likes you”, because we’ve been told to “suck it up, it isn’t a big deal”, “don’t be a crybaby”, “well at least he gave you a gift…”.
Violence grows, with the passing of time and with a lack of limits and consequences. That 2-year-old boy that pushed, soon became a 5-year-old that scratched, bit, and punched. What separates him from an adolescent that prohibits his girlfriend from dressing a certain way or meeting certain people? From the young man that controls his couple’s social media and slaps her because she looked at somebody else? From the grown man that economically controls his partner, that yells and locks her up or punches and kicks her? I don’t know, but I most surely won’t stick around to find out. What I do know is that I don’t want my daughter to grow up normalizing any of the latter scenarios.
But these compensations, that are given as a reparation for the emotional or physical damage caused, are a way to highlight a fictitiously benevolent and lavish condition in order to obscure the dark side of the relationship
By talking to her and explaining to her that it isn´t right, that she mustn’t let others attack her and that, no matter how many presents she’s given, she mustn’t be around violent people, I hope to give her a message of empowerment, self-esteem, and value that she needs to not fall into these types of relationships. And by promising her that we were not longer going to stick around the boy in question, because I don’t want for her to be hurt, that it doesn’t matter how much of a friend I am with his mom, and by thanking her for telling me, I hope I am teaching her that she can count on me. That she is not, nor will she be, alone, that she can ask for help and receive it, and that I will always trust her word before anything else.
Values and a good, transcendental part of our education are given at home. Let’s educate men that respect women, and let’s educate women who know how to raise their voice. For a tomorrow with equity and free of gender-based violence.
She was born in Mexico City on April 1980. Degree in Public Relations at the Universidad del Valle de México. She has professional experience in 4 principal areas, having more than 20 years of experience in logistic and events organization, 8 years in social communication, content marketing and communication and public relations teaching.