Safety in the Body as Privilege

Feeling safety in one’s body is sadly not a privilege that every woman partakes in.

Photo: Edward Weston

We could speak this problem as one belonging to  “third-world” countries, “underdeveloped” countries, countries with religions that consider women less than men, etc. But, sadly, this is an illusion.

The fact is that on average, almost 500 women are raped or sexually assaulted DAILY in the USA. (Source: Futures without Violence accessed Nov. 7, 2016) Forty-three per cent of women in the 28 European Union Member States have experienced some form of psychological violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (UN Women)

Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age). Of those women, more than 1 in 3—or some 250 million—were married before 15. Child brides are often unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to early pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. (UN Women)

CAN YOU TAKE THAT IN? OR even continue READING?? Probably not… 

The most recent statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) demonstrate that 1 in every 3 women OR MORE have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. Some national studies show up to 70% have –that’s 7 out of 10 women. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. (Sources: World Health Organization and UNWomen accessed Nov. 7, 2016)

  • Around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. By far the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends. Source: UN Women
  • At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in 30 countries, according to new estimates published on the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in 2016. In most of these countries, the majority of girls were cut before age 5. Source: UN Women
  • Adult women account for almost half of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Women and girls together account for about 70 per cent, with girls representing two out of every three child trafficking victims. Source: UN Women

All of that being said, of course, these statistics are just the numbers, but what about the actual faces & stories of the actual women and girls, their families and loved ones, that this affects? The thing is—I just showed you what a HUGE percentage of women in the world this affects. So, if we are honest with ourselves, your face, or mine, or many of your friends or loved ones would  be on display. This phenomenon of violence against women is affecting all of us, while it kills some of us. And, for some reason, we have still turned a blind eye for SO long.

The above violence has statistical repercussions, of course. More than the statistics can count probably, but women who have been physically or sexually abused by their partners are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and in some regions, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence. (Source: UN Women)

I assure you that even reading this, you might be having a slight reaction of “turning off” or disconnecting, dissociating from your body. You may have the impulse to “turn off” and avoid, maybe even deny to yourself the accuracy of this information. You may excuse it away, saying it’s simply not relevant to you.

So, while it may appear that it is happening in some places (a lot) more than others, we see that we are not exempt, whether we are living in the USA or Europe, or wherever we may be living, from this conversation. Even if it’s not happening in our immediate vicinity, it is happening in our global neighborhood, and a lot. If it’s not your sister, it was your grandmother, if it wasn’t your grandmother, it could be your daughter or granddaughter.

Sadly, broadly speaking, to imagine another time, where no violence against women existed, we would have to go back over 2,000 years in history, to pre-Greek & Roman times, in what Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her widely accepted Kurgan hypothesis, Marija Gimbutas, asserted as Neolithic sites in Lithuania and across Europe that provided evidence for the existence of matriarchal pre-Indo-European societies. If one single sentence could encapsulate thousands of years of inequality, I might mention from patriarchal laws denying women’s right to learn to write, participate in politics, to witch hunt murders of women, and in the recent centuries, denying them right to vote, and saddest, the above statistics: child marriage, genital mutilation.

I know it’s so hard –or can be so hard—to take in. It’s almost impossible for me to sit still and write about this. And, that’s actually one of the reasons WHY I Dance. And WHY I am writing today to YOU about dance. The importance of the body. The body is our home throughout our lives—that is undeniable. I wish that this vessel could be safe for every one.

Why is it especially important to talk about this topic NOW? Well, I find that today is the best day to talk about it, not only because today is as usual the only and best day to make a change. But also because, in the USA, there’s a sexually violent presidential candidate actually being considered. Yep, in the USA, which influences so many countries with its marketing, products, and television. A country where, supposedly we have the right to an education and to information, but apparently we are not using and applying it–or at least not for the greater good. Perhaps for personal gain. Otherwise, how could we ever CONSIDER a president or a presidential candidate that embodies these very principles of hatred towards women that I have laid out so carefully above. See, when we even allow this to be a consideration, it’s insulting to every single woman that you know. To our bodies, to our health, to our children, to our rights, of course, and to our ability to feel safety in our bodies.

I don’t take the privilege of safety in my body for granted, or even lightly. Every day that I can dance and feel good in my body, I am grateful and blessed. And, in the work that I do, I am constantly reminded that it IS a privilege to feel safety in our bodies. Not every woman on this Planet DOES. And, honestly, since we are all inter-connected, you and I won’t either, until every single woman does.

So, how can we transform things? How can we make a change on this Planet where we live?

Look—as I said, I get it. There’s global warming, there are racism issues… I could come up with a rather LONG and heart-breaking list of all of the things for you to consider and think about, and I am a person, too…I know, it’s tough to go about your day and enjoy it, while hearing about so many things that are quite frankly worrisome, let alone that could lead me to feel SOOOO angry and powerless.

My invitation to you is, keep the door open, slightly ajar if you will. Don’t close the door on this conversation. Take care of yourself. And, dance it out when it gets too much. Feel it in your body, let yourself feel the anger, the powerlessness, and call in some fierceness. Call in some loving warrior energy and dance that shit out!! Move. Move your body until you can be again. And, then, when you feel ready, open the door of the conversation again. Look at the info again. Just do not DENY it. Do not close the door to it. Let yourself take baby steps. Let yourself be gentle–to all involved. Hate no one. But please, please…please. Don’t forget –your mom, her sister, your friend… all women. All women’s bodies long to feel safe. Don’t forget us.

Tanya Dantus is a Feminine & Motherhood Empowerment Coach, Women & Children’s Rights Advocate, and dancer. She also holds professional qualifications as a M.A. in Counseling Psychology, Yoga Instructor, with studies in Human Rights & Anthropology as well. She dreams of seeing every woman dancing freely in the world, feeling safe in her body, and thus, a force to be reckoned with. She is a a fierce & loving stand for her clients, worldwide. She currently lives at the edge of the Black Forest in Germany with her son and husband, and loves enjoying the nature of the region and dancing in its spaces, as well as traveling far & wide to dance to dance with, embody, and inhabit body safely with other women globally.

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