Serena Williams Shines the Light on Abuse

Serena Williams is the ambassador for the Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse program that focuses on the issue of abuse via financial control.  “One in four women will experience domestic violence,” she says, “and this is to help woman and communities throughout America find a way (out of) abuse through financial education and empowerment. That’s my big message.’’ 

Now is the time for more women to tell their stories.  The women’s movement has stagnated around #MeToo and #TimesUp focusing on sexual assault in the workplace.  While these are imperative aspects of women’s issues, the scope of woman abuse from partners has seemingly taken the back burner.  Thank you, Serena, for shining the light back onto the issue of domestic abuse.

You may ask, “Is this really that important?”  You’re darn right it is especially when you consider:

  • Many women in North America (20% in Canada, 25% in the U.S.) have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 70% of spousal violence is not reported to the police so the statistics are likely much higher.  99% of all domestic violence includes financial control.  Does this mean that therefore financial control necessarily leads to domestic violence?  No, but restricting spending, preventing financial account access, excluding from financial decisions and causing debt are all considered financial abuse.
  • Violence against women costs taxpayers and the government billions of dollars every year: Canadians collectively spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence.  In 2016, the McKinsey Global Institute reported in the U.S. violence against women costs about $4.9 billion in direct costs alone.
  • It has a profound effect on children:  Help organizations in both Canada and the U.S. claim children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes and are more likely to become violent in their adult relationships.

Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation launched the No More campaign in 2013 to break the stigma and it brought the issue to public attention with TV ads and they continue to work with many agencies.

Bringing these matters to the public eye is important.  Calling someone out on being controlling is important.  Total intolerance of abuse is important.  But isn’t that just putting a band-aid on the problem?  The issue is extremely complex.  If we have any hope of truly changing the issue of men dominating women in the home, in the workplace, or anywhere; we need to look at the root cause. How are our societies raising our children?  We need to model effective behaviour every day.

We’re not going to erase the Disney images of sweet little princesses needing the knight in shining amour riding on the white horse, but perhaps we can limit that exposure and present gender neutral/equal alternatives in child play.  We need to have meaningful discussions with our children and teenagers about what they see and hear.  A good start might be to talk about how wonderful it is that Serena Williams is setting such a great example by being the Ambassador for the Purple Purse.

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5 Comments

  1. It still haunts me. Just started working in a adult homeless shelter, middle of winter, middle of the night. A door opens, and in walks a young woman with a small child in her arms. “”I need help. I’m being abused.” How do you say no? But the number one rule of the shelter, No Children Allowed after 7 PM.
    I am male. I grew up in an abusive home, where everyone got abused, brothers, sisters, me, and my Mom. She died when I was about 9 years old. He didn’t actually kill her, but she felt death was her only escape. Cancer was the diagnosis, but he was the cause. In those days, there was no help.
    Now this lady had come to me, they had put me in charge of nights just that day, with no proper training, just rules. I started to cry.
    I told her this was the wrong shelter, the women’s shelter was across town. I showed her the list of rules. She started to cry too. I watched her turn to the door, then turn back to look at me. There was nothing I could say. My tears said it all. She walked out the door, crestfallen.
    There is no end to this story. I never found out what happened to her, or the child in her arms. I quit working there next day, but that was too late. Why didn’t I just break the rules.
    Because I was a coward.
    It still haunts me…

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    1. Sometimes we can only do what we can do, and that includes with the information and skill we have at that time. Remembering the “could’ve, should’ve would’ve” events in our lives is a huge burden. The family shelter where you were working should have had an emergency number that you could have called or an emergency fund where you could have placed her in a taxi to the women’s shelter.
      As for your memory, you are not to blame for what you were unable to do at the time. Women in need are often more resourceful than we give them credit for. Hopefully, she found her way to the women’s shelter.
      Thank you for sharing.

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      1. She had a car, and the address, but that is not the part I am talking about. I am talking about the mental and emotional effect. She was in need of human acceptance and understanding, not rejection. This shelter was well known in town, the other lesser known for obvious reason. More than anything, she needed to know all men are not jerks. I failed that night.

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      2. Sorry I misunderstood. She may not have felt that you failed her, but rather that the system did. It all depends on your demeanour at the time. We all miss out on opportunities in life. The best we can do is forgive ourselves, learn from the situation and move on.

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      3. Not to worry. I was remembering from a long time ago, and how I felt after. I just hate rules that don’t cover unexpected situations. Rules that don’t allow for humanity.

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