The pandemic within the pandemic

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Martina Trevisiol, a third-year Medical student at the University of L’Aquila (Italy). She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Just imagine being left home alone with your abuser. We all experienced how hard it could be to stay isolated. No friends to see, no guys to hang out with, no walks in parks. We kept being safe in our homes. “Stay safe, stay home” they said. But what if the safe place is not safe? What if you’re left alone with your abuser? Who can help you? No one. It’s just you and him.

Two out of three women worldwide have experienced violence in their lifetime. With both the pandemic and the response measures these numbers have increased. It’s called a pandemic within the pandemic. A more silent one, a more subtle one, a more sneaky one. It’s called Gender Based Violence (GBV).

GBV is not only sexual or physical abuse. GBV is psychological abuse, GBV are words. GBV is the fear of walking alone on the way back home at night. GBV is: “hey beautiful”.GBV is: “I’d prefer it was a man performing my surgery”. GBV is online harassment; it’s all the Instagram DM full of requests; it’s the need of blocking someone’s account or number because he was too insistent.

GBV is another woman not believing your words. GBV are the authorities blaming you. GBV is searching for help and being left alone. GBV is this feeling, the feeling of impotence.
Why? Because we’re women.

In Italy, datas indicate that 31.5% of women between 16 and 70 years of age have experienced physical or sexual abuse at any point in their lives, with violence attributed to a current or former partner in 13.6% of cases.

Women’s contacts with anti-violence centers in Italy, 2016-2020.

What can we do?
Not being silent. Support the victims. Believe the victims.
As future health care professionals, we’re the first person a woman faces. Getting to know the signs (not only physical signs) of abuse, is part of our duty.
Educate our sons. This frames the responsibility for sexual aggression and violence where it rightly belongs: on the perpetrator, rather than the victim, and sums up that the answer to resolving sexual violence is not to restrict the freedom of movement and expression for one party, but to teach boys to be better men.

Everyone has the right to feel safe. Let’s keep that in mind.

About the author

Martina Trevisiol is a third-year Medical student at the University of L’Aquila (Italy).
She’s affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) – SISM Italy.
Advocating for Human and Women’s Rights since she was a little girl, she’s now facing new challenges both in medical and non-medical fields.

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