Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day: a day for honoring sweethearts with expressions of true love. It’s also the day of One Billion Rising, a worldwide movement to end all forms of violence against women, recognizing that one in three women on our planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime, and usually by someone she knows. It’s inconceivable that two polar-opposite ways of treating women – assaulting and honoring – should fall on the same day. Or is it?
What’s the core factor that changes a Valentine sweetheart into a victim of intimate partner violence? The abuse of power and control. It extends well beyond physical and sexual abuse: words, money, technology, religion – anything can become a weapon in the hands of an abuser. He may call her names and threaten to destroy her/hunt her down/take the children away if she leaves. He may slowly, insidiously take control of all of the joint assets. If he is technologically savvy, he may install spyware on all of her electronic devices. Slowly but surely, her sense of autonomy, safety, confidence and freedom will get worn away; and no matter how nice it looks on the outside, her home, which should be her sanctuary, turns into a cage.