I have seen the scenario that Soraya Chemaly describes played out again and again in the park, when I am out in the city but mainly at family events. We talk about these events when they occur in public places, in what should be state – regulated spaces but we do not talk about them when we see siblings interact or when they happen at family/friends’ gatherings.
I remember one incident, at a family wedding 6 years ago, when a little boy who had to be 3 cornered a little girl, about the same age and gave her a kiss. The adults look on and laughed (including myself) and made jokes about how he better honour that kiss and marry her.
The act of privileging and distributing power begins so early, that we are not even aware that we are doing it. That little boy learnt that day, not only did he have the right to kiss any girl he wanted, but that adults in his life, would not only condone but celebrate that behaviour. The interesting twist was that if he had done the same thing with a stranger’s child, my family members would have been mortified and maybe taken the child to task. In this instance, the girl was known to the family and they had become “friends” at the wedding.
“Boys will be Boys” is a common adage that I hear but usually in the context of family relations. We teach boys to respect and be careful with girls but usually girls that are strangers to them, when it comes to women within the family, we give the usual excuses…
“He’s your cousin...”
“You know what he is like…He is just playing rough.”
“He is only picking on you…hitting you because he likes you and wants to play with you.”
And the list goes on and on. Is it then surprising that intimate partner and family violence is the most prevalent forms of VAW?