70 dead – The Top of The Iceberg



On average, a woman dies each week in Hungary as a victim of domestic violence. Recently there have been years when the number of victims was as high as 70 a year. Women that cannot raise their voices any longer, fates that cannot change for the better any more. We can learn about their stories at the Muted Witnesses march that takes place on 21st November, where we can find them written on red female figures. Yet we still cannot see or hear the stories of over a million Hungarian women who are regularly abused by their partners, or who become victims of violence at their workplaces or in hospital. Or maybe we just don’t want to hear and see..? Just don’t let the tip of the iceberg poke our eyes out – the 70 dead women that cannot be ignored any more. Who are responsible for the violence, and what can we do so that women can live in safety?

Since we are facing a phenomenon which is directly or indirectly present in the lives of nearly every family, circle of friends, workplace, NGO or hospital, the brief answer is: we are all responsible, and we can all do something to make the situation better. Who is responsible for what, and what could be done differently? Let’s see the answers one after the other.

Dear Decision-Maker, Executive and Judiciary,

for decades, NANE has been lobbying for laws that would ensure that women leaving behind abusive relationships be safe. In relation to this, the Istanbul Convention has been ratified by the state of Hungary as well. It would be welcome if women’s rights had more force both in the realms Hungarian laws and practice. Let us see a few examples: Te police should intervene in cases of domestic violence not only if there is already blood spilt! Restraining orders should actually protect abused women, and it should have real consequences if the restrained man approaches the woman despite the order. There should be mothers’ homes available for women – and their families – escaping from their partners! If a case of domestic violence is taken to court, the starting points should not be victim blaming and the suspicion that the woman in question is not telling the truth! With these types of accusations, the rate of libels is rather low, similarly to any other crime. In order for women’s perspective to have more space in your work, engage female experts in the core of your work, and do not keep them under the glass ceiling!

Dear Employer,

the dignity of women should be a value at the workplace. A module about violence against women could easily be a part of regular work safety trainings. Do not deny the existence of violence in the workplace, investigate it instead, and if required, take the necessary steps (and do not dismiss the victim)! Be attentive to your employees – who is it that stays at home without any apparent cause, puts on an unreasonable amount of make-up from one day to the other, or suddenly breaks down crying – there could be a severe problem in the background. If a female employee leaves behind an abusive relationship, respect her request and do not let her ex into the office! Provide part-time or other atypical employment options, and give equal wages and promotional opportunities to female employees. How does it tie in with this issue? (One reason) why many women are unable to get out of an abusive relationship is because they are financially dependent on their husbands – and whatever they earn, they it at your place. Really do count with employees coming back after maternity leave, and don’t take them back for one month only, just for the sake of appearances.

Dear Helping Professional and Organisation,

be attentive to your clients and members. Anyone can become a victim of violence – not only the underprivileged! Try to understand the situation and emotions of the woman abused. Read the Why does she stay? booklet by NANE, and try to understand the nature of violence and the situation of the victim. Don’t try to force any actions on her, instead, let her arrive to the point where she herself will want to move on by supporting her in finding her own values and goals, and in strengthening her self-esteem. Get in touch with organisations that work within this field.

Dear Media Worker,

do not fall for the rhetoric of victim blaming or the notion that domestic violence is just a shocking rarity that only happens to very few. Present successful women and positive stories as well, to let society see that beyond passive victims, women can also be active citizens shaping their own fates and environments. Give accounts of women beyond the spheres of fashion, arts and gastronomy – you will find an abundance of talents in other fields as well!

Dear Health Care Worker,

provide all you clients with adequate information about their conditions and possible treatments. Engage them in decision-making, and respect what they want. You are the professional indeed, but it’s her life and her body. Give her only the kind of treatment and only in a way that you would give it to your own loved ones! If it’s not justified, or the client does not consent, don’t keep her in hospital and don’t put her under any surgical interventions!

Dear Man,

respect the women that are an integral part of your life, in your family or at your workplace. Treat them as partners and trust them. Doing this is a lot more worth for you in the long run than wanting to convince them that they are less capable than you and thinking that they always need your guidance. Sometimes we all get annoyed with others. However, try to always settle conflicts calmly, through words, and never lay hands on women; instead, just leave her, run the nerves out of yourself, or go meet your buddies – and then return to the issue once both of you have cooled down. If this doesn’t work, and you always find yourself clenching your fist for some reason, this relationship is not good. Ask for help, together or separately. If that doesn’t help, continue life on separate ways – that will give both of you a much bigger chance for a happy and successful life than opening the way to violence would. Letting her go is a much stronger sign of love than laying hands on her! Try helping any men or women that turn to you with a similar problem with these principles in mind!

Dear Woman,

respect men, but don’t place them above yourself! They aren’t worth any more or any less than you. Respect yourself as well! Think over what you expect from a relationship or a workplace, and don’t try to convince yourself, no matter what, that it’s still OK for you. It’s not OK if you’re hurt, and it’s important to voice your grievances. Don’t give a tenth chance to someone that has fooled you 9 times, and don’t believe that a relationship that hasn’t been able to improve for years will ever improve. Violence should not be acceptable to you. And never believe that you could do anything to deserve beating. No! One may deserve many things in life, but nothing can be an excuse for violence. If you are in trouble in your relationship, ask for help, and if there is no other solution, get out of the relationship – there could be a different way to your happiness!
If you see any friends, relatives or colleagues experience the same issue, don’t try to make any decisions or take any actions for them; support them and try to empower them instead, so that they can feel that they can be more than just a victim.

And something to remember for everyone: domestic violence, be it physical, emotional or financial – as well as any other forms of violence – are criminal offences. If anyone learns that their neighbours, siblings or colleagues live in an abusive relationship, or suffer from violence in any other field – they should not turn their head away and pretend that they didn’t see or hear anything. They should turn to the relevant organisations or take a look at the methods for a helping efficiently.