“Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act.” Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary- General International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Jacaranda was laid to rest in May. Dressed in a red tutu with fake fur trim, she wore a white Venetian mask on her face, and beat up, pink doc martens on her feet; the tutu and mask were her signature Halloween outfit for 11 years. We forged a friendship the summer before grade school; first grade to be exact. In a class of pretty blondes, we were the only kids with coke bottle glasses and mousy brown hair. I was the sulking outsider; poor, living with a single mother on the other side of the train tracks. She, the new kid in class, moved into town with her mom in late summer; right next door to our dilapidated cottage.
Our moms became friends, but we held off out of shyness and a fear of rejection. One night, my mom invited them over for a frozen chicken dinner, opening the doorway to our friendship. After dinner, as our moms chugged down beers, we watched TV. We loved the Rugrats, we agreed, but disliked Angelica Pickles; she was the epitome of mean girls we knew. That night, as we swapped notes on low points in our short lives, we bonded. When school started, we met at 8:00am and walked briskly along the tracks to our small town school. It took us 10 minutes yet nurtured a friendship that lasted many years.
Years later, I found out that Jacaranda and her mom, Mira, were fugitives. Mira had married young; at 16. It was a shotgun wedding to the grocery store boy, Jim, who had raped her. Mira’s parents died in a fiery car crash soon after the wedding and, 6 months later, Jacaranda was born. Jim, Jacaranda’s fucked up dad, spent the next six years abusing her mother; he even poured acid on her.
One hot summer day in August, Mira had had enough. She pulled a huge steak knife from the kitchen sink, sinking it deep into Jim’s right eye as he pummeled her with jabs to the head. He keeled over; hit his head hard on the cold kitchen floor, dying instantly, as blood spurted everywhere. His death put an end to the daily beatings and cigarette burns Mira had received for six miserable years. They packed up what they could carry and left town.
UNITE Survivor Stories: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Like me, Jacaranda was quiet, bookish and sad. We spent countless hours walking the train tracks, running errands together, and sharing imaginary stories about our family lives. Our stories ran the gamut: from our version of the Addams Family, to that eccentric family in Jodie Foster’s movie: Home for the Holidays. We were the two J’s – Jacaranda and Jacinta; Jaca and Jaci for short.
Every Halloween, we’d dress up and head to town to trick-a-treat; I wore my black tutu, an African mask (our masks hid our pain), and an old pair of boots my mom bought at the Salvation Army. This was the only time we got good candy and rubbed shoulders with local hoi poi. It was the only time, Old Man Jones, the barber shop owner and local drunk, would train his beady eyes on us and invite us in to check out his tools in the back room.
“Nah, not tonight!” Jaca always said.
“Maybe, next year…?” I’d add.
We’d grab the candy, dash for the door, and not think much of it. We never said a word to our moms. As we got older, we added a few choice words to our repartee, running out the door as Old Man Jones reached for one of his sharp razors. Was he a pedophile? Rumors swirled for years that he did cup an occasional feel from a curious teen with raging hormones, but no one could confirm it. It remained a small town sleaze story, embellished and shared every year, at Halloween, like prettily wrapped cheap candy.
After high school, Jaca joined the military and got shipped to Germany. I stayed local, attended community college, and worked as a cashier at the supermarket. One day, I got a surprise call. It was Jaca. “Meet me on the corner of Vine and Rose, I’m home!” I ran out to meet her and, as I turned the corner, watched in horror as Old Man Jones lost control of his old jalopy and killed her. I’m still mourning … In a flash, my best friend was gone. From that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her. (750 words)
Speakeasy #137. This week’s piece must include the following sentence as our LAST line: “From that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her.”
Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and it is a sober reminder that acts of violence against women; domestic and public, remain a global problem. To date, UN figures (click on the pdf for more data) show that 70% of women experience violence; 80% of the 500,000 – 2 million trafficked victims are female; over 130 million girls have suffered the brutality of female genital mutilation FGM/C; 50% of sexual assaults are on underage girls (16 and under); and in the USA, “intimate partner violence” costs more than $5.8 billion (4.1 for medical and 1.8 in lost productivity).
About 60 million girls leave home to become child brides, often to much older men. We’ve come a long way and still have a lot of work ahead of us. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, is often cited as an international bill of rights for women, but it remains under consideration as some member nations continue to challenge its contents, and demand changes. One day, all men and women will live equitably and harmoniously on p lanet Earth. I remain hopeful this will come to pass.
♥What are your thoughts? Have you ever been a victim of domestic violence? Or knew someone and spoke out? Do share! Thank you.
*Please bear with me as I continue to catch up on your blogs and commenting… Thank you all for your patience!
Positive Motivation Tip: We can empower ourselves and others by reporting domestic violence, showing support to abused women, and speaking out against bullies and abusers. Take a stand.
- 25 November: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (marciokenobi.wordpress.com)
- International Women’s Day: End Violence Against Women (Mirthandmotivation.com)
- International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: PLEASE READ (laurabwilliamsdesigns.wordpress.com)
- News story: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (gov.uk)
- News: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (UN) (femalereport.wordpress.com)