Tower in the Clouds

Rapunzel, Rapunzel…named after the salad green her mother craved during pregnancy, so much so that her doting husband had to break into the neighbouring sorceress’ garden to get her some. Her miraculous recovery after consuming the greens does suggest much required medication, and the sorceress might have just been a medicine woman, a lot like the witches of Salem. The sorceress, who adopts the child notices her blossoming beauty and does in fact lock her up at an age we often associate with puberty. The child herself could have been trained in the arts of ‘sorcery’, but distracted by a wandering prince and having had an affair with him behind her matron’s back, she gets pregnant instead. Rapunzel is ousted by the sorceress, the prince is blinded by a fall into a thorn bush, and years later they meet again and become a family with the conceived pair of twins. Now, the tower itself was meant to protect the child. The demonization of intelligent women who lived in isolation (or men for that matter) – as reminiscent as it is of the pilgrimages of young sages intended for the procuring of wisdom – aside, the child’s character is fallible. By going behind her matron’s back and compromising her own sanctum, she was responsible for both her and her lover’s suffering. Although, what prince doesn’t have so much as a bodyguard with him as he travels? To me, it really does sound like they were having an affair, and perhaps his title even was procured by marriage. I wonder…was she simply young and naïve to have been taken advantage of? Perhaps, she seduced him instead, and was somewhat malicious? But then, the sorceress did punish them both, perhaps out of rage. In some versions, she is said to have waited for the prince after banishing Rapunzel. If the latter is true, perhaps she wanted to neutralise the effects of whatever hallucinogen or aphrodisiac her young ward had administered.

Either way, all three female characters including the ailing mother suffer from certain demonization. The parents being left out of the plot postpartum, speaks to some kind of epidemic or death more than any. The child herself may be naturally susceptible to the disease, and these days we understand that we can genetically inherit certain medical conditions or at least the predispositions for them. In fact, this might have instigated a need for the child’s isolation. As the particular tale unfolds though, as is still necessary, her isolation in the tower was to protect her from the outside world. I have to admit, looking at the story as an adult, two things immediately come to mind; the ‘locking up’ or incarceration of women to secure themselves from bodily harm, and victim blaming.

Generally, violence against women is not the victim’s fault. Most days, we do resort to our ‘towers’ as precautionary measures against abuse. Even then, domestic abuse can occur and the victims are often children. Loosely defined, domestic abuse or violence encompasses crimes against cohabitants whether or not familial, including extra-marital relationships. A 2013 WHO analysis reported, that 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lifetimes. From the same source, 38% of female homicides are committed by intimate male partners. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that as of 2010, in the U.S. alone, 85% of domestic abuse victims were female. As of 2014, an estimated 1.5 billion children globally, between the ages of 2-17, were exposed to violence. In 2015, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 683,000 children were maltreated and more than half were female. Estimates therein state that between 3.3 and 10 million children are exposed to adult domestic violence per annum, nationwide.

As women, we understand more than most, the value of good fences and walls. The shelter we all require is not just against the elements, it is against offenders. When they exist within walls we are raised in, we become perpetually helpless against harm. Women are naturally less strong than men. Yes, we may be skilled fighters, but physically we are generally smaller and have less muscle mass than men (Janssen et.al. 2000). Part of the reason, as counter intuitive as it is, may be our reproductive capacities. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have never heard of a comfortable pregnancy. However, women do seem demonstrate higher physical endurance (Clark et.al. 2003). Just to clarify, physical endurance and stamina refers to the maintenance of prolonged muscle contraction, and are usually measured with the time one can keep up a certain activity at varying levels of efficiency and/or fatigue. Strength, on the other hand, refers to one’s capacity to exert physical force.

Janssen, I., Heymsfield, S.B., Wang Z.M., Ross, R. Skeletal Muscle Mass and Distribution in 468 Men and Women Aged 18–88 yr. J. Appl. Physiol.89(1), 81-88 (2000)

Clark, B.C., Manini, T.M., The, D.J., Doldo, N.A., Ploutz-Snyder, L.L. Gender Differences in Skeletal Muscle Fatigability are Related to Contraction Type and EMG Spectral Compression. J. Appl. Physiol.94(6), 2263-2272 (2003)

Traditionally, we’d expect that physical labour was taken on by men. Without modern aid though, women would have had their fair share in the form of domestic work too, e.g. fetching water. In addition to that, we do ail a little during menstruation alone, and aside from the obvious hygiene concerns, there were also the more rampant wild animals to worry about. And then of course, during and post pregnancy it wasn’t uncommon for women to suffer permanent injuries if not actually die. With the rise of modern medicine and the still improving access to it, childbirth related mortality is reducing.

Maternal Mortality

Nonetheless, we are targeted for these reasons. What more, the often lack of good and necessary enforcement does inhibit our freedom to roam free, even in our own neighbourhoods. There are precautions we still are advised to take and still practice including moving in groups and keeping to well-lit areas, but a lot can happen even in public transportation hubs. As of 2015 over 100 million women in the world were declared missing, and research estimates go as far as 136 million. Practices such as abortion and infanticide of girls contribute to these numbers heavily, especially in post-European-colonial societies.

Global Gender Ratio, and Missing Women Statistics

A lot of abuse starts small and the way psychopaths work is often some kind of gradient or coaxing. Just because it isn’t obviously violent, doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful or won’t lead up to that. We still argue about what even constitutes consent in adult relationships, as far as marriages. The truth is being brainwashed into a state of devotion to anyone at all is trauma, and I might still fare better in trying to explain this by referring to the beating of baby elephants in Southeast Asia to tame them for use in tourism. Generally, the suppression is achieved by conditioning us somehow, and physical pain is one such motivator. The other is the withdrawal of resources, and it can be as simple as sustenance. Yet another is their social confinement; separating them from family, friends and anyone who might help. While these things can be done physically overpowering or hurting a person, they are also achievable by less brutish means such as emotional blackmail or other forms of psychological manipulation. Often, victims of child abuse, especially when not treated if only because unreported, can fall into such abusive relationships later in life. It is a complicated subject to dissect, especially when either or both, the perpetrator or/and victim themselves, might be (a) product(s) of abuse which ranges up to paedophilia and incest.

Refocussing to cases with women, a child would have nowhere to turn as an infant when maltreated. As she gets older, and perhaps attends school, there is possibility for intervention and rescue. In really extreme cases, this is halted even in the case of reported births in hospitals. Often enough, it goes as far as teen pregnancy before anyone notices. Where t doesn’t, they still tend to be physically abused. Due to naivete, the child herself would not have known otherwise of how she should have been treated. The perpetrators are not always unrelated intimate partners of the mothers’ either; they can be a close relative including the actual father. Often, such victims are reclusive and stay out of school a lot, or even drop out for a host of reasons, including health and finance. Beyond that, their choice of partners will get quite limited in terms of academic and professional prospects. Where they commit, there may be more children, infidelity, domestic chaos if not further abuse, lack of strong role models for yet another younger generation along with the unhealthy family situation, and essentially perpetuation. Substance abuse, lack of education and ensuing detriments such as poverty, and cyclic behaviours such as crime and tolerance therein, are probably the greatest social impacts of child abuse. In fact, it is possible that the children may be introduced to criminal activities by their abusers, or perhaps someone they turn to for sanctum.     

“…they resort to self-harm risking their own lives to abort the unwanted spawn of their abuser.”
Natural Women

In marriages, or possibly de-facto relationships, the abuse is an assertion of control or power usually by men. Even when not physically painful, these relationships are often sexual in nature. Often, the terms of the relationship benefits one party more than the other. A child is one common way of achieving this, and due to child-bearing alone, the woman is immediately hooked and more implicated by the biological patron. In theory she may resort to legalities to try and handle the burden, but in the absence of a legal marriage or at least a co-lease, it becomes cumbersome. Yes, a genetic test might at least provide some base for the child’s identity, but it is practically unheard of that abusive relationships are safe in the first person sense, for children. While separation might be the best option, emotional manipulation and reliance usually of an economic nature can warrant otherwise. It does not mean that either woman or child is cared for even in terms of basic medical needs, though. Another form of emotional abuse is the diminishing of the victim’s self-worth. It might be the case, that they were targeted due to naturally low self-esteem. Here, the predatory nature of the abuser comes into play. They can often be charming, and even appear remorseful after a fit. The harassment is largely verbal and includes insults, shaming in company and public situations, the disregard of the victim’s sentiments, the manipulation of the victim’s sentiments to appear endearing, the insinuation or actual expression of threats when isolated, stalking and unfounded jealous accusations, and essentially the maintenance of the relationship.  

Domestic Violence
Why Women Persist in Abusive Relationships

In terms of economic abuse, the abuser takes control of finances. They may withhold and conceal information about it from the victim, steal or coerce it from her by way of blackmail, forced co-habitation due to shared leases and accounts, or even refute separation on those grounds. It is always worse when there are children involved. There are legal stipulations to handle such delicate cases, and they will take into account the contributory capacity of both parents in ensuing custody battles, but the emotional trauma alone can be crippling for the victim especially if they have been exposed to abuse for most of their lives.

Other Types of Violence Against Women

There are manners and outcomes of intervention in many instances above. One such possibility is adoption, but social systems everywhere seem stifled and stretched in terms of such welfare. The reliance on good will is not as conducive to provide genuine homes for the children, and sometimes the adoptive families can be abusive too. Yes, we are improving, but we can’t neglect the prevalence of these issues. We live in this world too, after all. It may sound superfluous, but we can think about it practically in terms of crime. Better still, in terms of wasted resource and potential in those children who may have a genuine chance in a good stable home. It is true that the genetics may not be of the best ‘pools’, so to speak, but the effects of the environment on one’s psyche is undeniable. Sometimes, even knowing that else is possible is a great motivator for positive change. Before speaking of inherent potential, it is pertinent to provide proper sanctum and rehabilitation for these children. Whence they demonstrate behavioral or disciplinary issues, or so much as exhibit criminal tendencies, they may be treated as protocol and legality dictate. The identification of such miscreance does require safe and secure facilities that suffice in provisions of basic necessities for the boarders, along with supervision including medical practitioners and psychologists.  

Perhaps a bigger issue still, is that even when assaulted and harassed, the victim can be accused of provoking her offender by something as simple as her attire. It shifts the focus from the crime and criminal onto the victim, which feeds further into pre-existing stigmas. In fact, such pre-conceptions and ensuing pressures can make it difficult for victims of such assaults to come forth and report the incidences. Naturally the trauma itself is worse, and the shock immediately after the incident or when the victims regain consciousness will inhibit their ability to react accordingly. Often, the time frame alone is unconducive for forensic purposes, but the ensuing proceedings can involve a lot of inquiries of a personal nature. This is difficult to handle post-assault, and a lack of empathy from inquirers and other interested parties including witnesses is strenuous. As much as behavior patterns are necessary in determining the likelihood of the accused party’s guilt in difficult and/or forensically inconclusive scenarios, the investigation really should examine facts rather than speculate. As is common of most societies, so much as the baring of knees in summer can be detrimental for a girl’s image. Often, when further inquiries are made into her character too, many further issues arise with the statements of witnesses including intent and objective, due to their close relationship to the victim. The media reports of assaults are usually based on records that are deemed public, which in my opinion should only happen post-verdict. Otherwise, it is distracting on its own, and can further impede on proceedings if only by instigating and worsening sentiments and reactions of both the victim and the accused.

In terms of framing, the title of a news article focussing on the victim alleging assault, or being found or even confirmed as such takes away from the perpetrator. The problem is very rarely the victim, if at all. The crime occurred at a certain location at a particular time, the victim has been implicated, harmed and traumatised, and there was an offender. Yes, there are women who aim to attract a certain attention and dress and act in manners conducive to that objective, but they tend to ‘hang’ in dangerous areas. I am not objectifying or stereotyping those raised in proximity to such places, and I have addressed a similar sentiment and situation above, along with iterating the necessity for better environments, infrastructure and security, especially for children. However, the concerns with such cases should be of the safety of the venues the victim frequented and the times therein, or the types of venues even. The focus should be on the perpetrators, and efforts to spot them early on perhaps during early years in primary schools. The precautions should include widespread warnings, especially if the offender hasn’t been identified and apprehended past investigative protocol and legality. Reiterating what one should do when assaulted alone is not enough, for panic alone suffices to disarm a person, immediately making them more vulnerable.

Sexual Harassment Around the Globe

In a more microscopic sense, there is the apparent necessity for modesty. Admittedly, this never works because it is generally quite easy to tell the genders apart, even when dressed gender neutrally. Expecting or requiring women to cover up more than necessary, does not change the fact that we exist, and while it may hide our curves, doesn’t alter the common knowledge pertaining to the female form. In fact, it makes us more apparent and susceptible to harm. As mentioned above, the perpetrators’ natures need to be taken into consideration when discussing violence in any form, and they are predatory. Whence women are openly judged for their physical nature, such men will simply abuse them further with little if any repercussion.       

It is true that in situations of crises, entire populations can be put in curfew. Should it be observed all the time, though? This isn’t practical or healthy. In addition, there is the harm within walls to concern with and I do not just mean break-ins. A lot lies in wider and better law enforcement, as well as the provision of basic necessities as per human and children rights sanctions. It does take a majority vote to bring about change in policy and governance to realise this. The existence of harm affects us all, and should concern us more than the characters and dispositions of victims. Masses can be both wrongfully judgemental and dismissive of such harms, if only because they don’t appear to happen in their areas. Morality is not meant to judge others by and personal beliefs may differ. However, we live by principles that often factor into our own habits. Where they differ from others, we may fault those deviations, and preserve an inaccurate unwholesome understanding of the world. It is as simple as blaming a mishap on the victim for not being of a certain denomination, or of a ‘good faith’ or family or area. So easy it is still, to waive off a crime by being convinced that the victim deserved or even asked for it. What we achieve by doing so is undermining, even ignoring a harm that has come to our attention.  

The Psychology of Victim Blaming

Our own self-preservation may require passiveness as per our personal understanding the world. Silence about our own lack of security and mistreatments, out of fear as it may be, will only perpetuate and encourage our own harm. It can often come across as being between a rock and a hard place to turn to authorities for victims, especially young women. As much as I do understand that, I must press for the other option. Try reporting and opening up about it. This is not just as a warning to others; it will pressure governance and society more to look into it more thoroughly and consistently. What more, you really can be more in control of the dispersion. It is necessary to consult with good lawyers and medical practitioners about this, though. What do we truly have to lose when perpetually threatened, anyway? We must be able to control our circumstances, as is congruent with freedom. The only reason liberty should be compromised is harm, and harmful intent and tendency towards others. In time, perhaps our towers will make way for farther spanning safe grounds instead. In the present day, public safety especially for women, seems an elusive concept still.

Stay safe…

See Also: The Other Half, Natural Women

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