Guest blog by Erandi Barrera Moreno, Secretary of feminist society Women Talk Back!
On this day in 1960, three sisters – Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal – were assassinated in the Dominican Republic. They had been involved in clandestine activities against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, the country’s president at the time, who ordered their murder. In honour of the sisters, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1999.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. According to the UN, one in two women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2017; while only one out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances.
To commemorate this sombre occasion, the University’s Women Talk Back! feminist society will host campaigners who have dedicated their lives to ending male violence against women and girls at a public event on 25 November. ‘Feminist Campaigners Talk Back! at the University of Bristol’ invites both the University community and members of the public to listen to and engage with feminists activists as each speaker focuses on different aspects of the interconnected forms male violence against women and girls takes in our society.
At Women Talk Back!, we are insistent on the fact that ending violence against women and girls cannot be a single day event. Creating a world where women are free from violence permeates everything we do as a feminist student society. Throughout November and December, we are hosting workshops, events and writing articles to raise awareness in our community about this crucial issue.
UN Women is running its 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign between 25 November and 10 December, Human Rights Day. The theme for this year is the urgent need to end the plight of rape.
At Women Talk Back!, we stand in solidarity with all girls and women who have experienced male violence, including rape and intimate partner violence, today and every day.
In order to raise awareness about this issue, we decided to interview one of our sisters to explore our own experiences on this matter. Her name has been redacted to protect her privacy.
Sara and I met on a Thursday at a local coffee shop near the Bristol city centre. Through the windows, you could see people rushing after the rain started pouring during this Autumn afternoon. We had a lengthy discussion about male violence. She said she came across the term a couple of times as she was growing up, but that nobody really talked about it in her family or among her friends. Here’s her story:
“Come to think of it now, I had a cousin, though; Tammy. She was a promising student. All of a sudden she got married and dropped out of school. A few months later she was pregnant with her first child and that was it! She disappeared from our lives because she was a married woman now. One day when my nephew, Tammy’s son, was about two-years-old, they showed up at our house. It was nobody’s birthday, nor a holiday, nor any other ‘special’ occasion, so I was puzzled. She seemed to have just come randomly.
“My mom said Tammy and her son had come to stay with us for some time. I was quite content as I had missed having Tammy around, for she used to live near our house when she was studying. After two days I was beginning to settle with our new routine. I kissed Tammy and my nephew goodbye before I went to school. When I came back they were gone just as they had come, leaving no trace.
“The only thing my mom ever said was that ‘they had to go’. Time went by and it became apparent that her husband was abusive and that visit to our house was one of her attempts at escape. I felt deeply sorry and powerless. I didn’t know what to do. When this happened, I was a child and didn’t fully understand. After that, I’ve only seen Tammy twice. But everyone in her immediate circle would say ‘if she really wanted to, she could leave’, implying she was stupid, or ‘mentally unwell’, even a sort of masochist.”