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The hidden pandemic we ought to speak about – Millions of women face crippling violence and abuse

As we argue vaccination campaigns and the disintegration of our world economies millions of men and women have been forced into a cycle of abuse they can no longer escape – courtesy of mandatory lockdowns and calls for social isolation. And though many will argue that the end justifies the means, it remains nevertheless our responsibility to address today the horrors so many have been made to bear, too often without any recourse or hope of escape.


One in three women worldwide experiences or has experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. A recent report but the United Nations warned that “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified.”


Such numbers are too ghastly for any one of us to dare turn a blind eye, or worse yet, to imagine that we do not share part of the blame. Abuse is a learned pattern – a social narrative we have somewhat normalized by pretending it is not so. Our silence and our reluctance to speak against it and demand just reparations for survivors have allowed abusers to imagine themselves righteous in their violence. Abuse within the home is not limited to a particular gender … sadly, women are by far the main casualties of this silent war we feel so inclined to never admit to. 


So why this article when I usually limit myself to world politics? Well, for one I know only too well what abuse feels like on a day-to-day basis. Once upon a time, I had to fight my own demons. And while mine never per se raised a hand on me, words of hate can too, cut deeper than any blade. Systematic abuse does not always come by way of a fist … 

My own experience taught me a valuable lesson, that no one should have to do it alone. 


And so today I’d like to speak on behalf of another – a beautiful, amazing soul whose resilience and determination to survive both her abuser and the many scars he left her with, have moved me more than I can say.


If her story is only too common; her fight I refuse to let go unnoticed. She may be one among millions but she is one we can easily help so that others could draw strength in the knowledge they are no longer a piece of data – a dehumanized number on a page.


Her name is Michelle, she’s a mother, a survivor who has yet to come to terms with how fierce she truly is to have walked away from the hell her husband put her through. Years of unspeakable abuse do not wash easily … walking away does not make the demons in your head any quieter … I would argue actually that it is in those moments of relative peace and physical safety that those voices assault you the most savagely. Trauma is, in and of itself, crippling.


If  Michelle managed to get away, she will need help to reach financial independence – as for her mental health … well, there too money will dictate how swiftly she can reclaim her peace of mind. 


I found Michelle on TikTok (@andimichelle41). Sandwiched between cat videos and the deluge of self-proclaimed influencers looking for validation, an algorithm decided to slide her to my For You Page. However random it all sounds, I cannot help to think that her story was always meant to be told.

One of many, she is also all those voices that never cut through the white noise of our respective lives.


Michelle’s tale is no more heroic than that of millions of other survivors and yet she is one we cannot ignore because now we know. TikTok has given her a platform to speak her truth and it is up to us to do what we must as we owe her care. We owe her more than she will ever admit since as a collective we failed to stop her abuser. And if we didn’t ‘break it’ we sure as hell should help fix it!


#askforhelp #foryoupage #fyp #foryou #domesticabuseawareness #domesticviolence #mentallybroke #inadarkplace #iwish #helpme

♬ I’m Not Okay – Citizen Soldier


Today we can give her the means to rebuild her life and that of her daughter – how this help is formulated matters little as long as help comes.


To my beautiful new friend, I would like to say this: “Your courage is humbling, your courage is inspiring! You’ve done what so many couldn’t do by walking away and I wish you could see what I see when I look at you: a beautiful soul whose smile lights up the sky.”


It is often by speaking the name of the evils that besiege us that our power is returned. What about we start right here, right now by standing by her and joining our voices to hers? 

Wouldn’t that be a good use of our time on social media!


Catherine Perez-Shakdam

Catherine is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and a former consultant to the UN Security Council on Yemen. Her work has been published in the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, the Daily Express, Epoch Times and countless other media.

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