No one can fail to be horrified when contemplating incidences of violence against women worldwide, and further appalled when reading statistics specific to their own country; in my case Britain, where 167 women are raped every day. What shocked me when I was volunteering with Restored, however, was a growing discovery of how social constructs validate an environment in which violence against women can thrive.
For how would a man come to beat his partner if society weren’t providing a culture of impunity, with a lack of openness about the issue and punishment for perpetrators, if society weren’t perpetuating a view of women as commodities? How would incidents rape be so frequent if society weren’t so sexualised, with violent pornography available to any young child who can access the internet and girls frequently calling each other degrading names, if rape didn’t frequently go unreported and unpunished, if high profile rape cases have show the woman’s word disregarded? How would violence thrive without a view of women as weaker individuals and a lack of respect for the qualities of the individual?
Reflecting on society, one can’t avoid reflecting on one’s place within society. Looking at my views on relationship I could identify situations in which I had both hurt and been hurt, when I had fallen into a pattern of selfish relationship with no place for love or indeed God. The need for relationships to be restored is something that anyone and everyone should be able to identify with and what inspires awe when contemplating Restored is its work to restore the most vulnerable, as it works to prevent sexual and domestic violence. Involving men in the prevention of violence shows a move towards a society in which gender relations are restored and men and women show mutual respect.
I would hope that my time volunteering with Restored will prompt me to speak out against social constructs damaging gender relations and to put love and respect at the centre of reflection on relationships.
Jennifer Hargrave is studying French & Spanish at Oxford University