I’m sure anyone in the sciences would find flaw in such a statement, but I have recently found myself in a rather interesting sociological situation. For those of you who don’t know, I have been a proud member of the women’s rugby team for my entire collegiate career. While rugby is a rather dangerous sport given the amount of contact, I’ve been extremely lucky to remain uninjured during these four years—at least until last week. With minutes left in the first half, a teammate and I collided while trying to take down one of the larger members of the other team. Her chin went straight into my left eye, leaving me with quite a remarkable black eye.
|From black eye|
I’m fortunate that no bones were broken, but as I sat in the emergency room watching my cheek swell to epic proportions, I couldn’t believe how ugly I looked. It was amazing how quickly the colors changed from blue to an angry red. My coach sat with me as I waited for the results of my CAT scan and recounted a similar injury during her college years; “You’ll get plenty of looks with a bruise like that. Sympathy grimaces and concerned questions. But the worst looks of all are from the people who don’t ask questions.” And she was absolutely right.
I decided to give my professors a heads up as to what happened via email the night before my Monday classes. As my history professor pulled me aside at the end of class to express his concern, it was clear to me that he hadn’t checked his email. At first I was peeved. I disliked being singled out in front of my peers and having to explain my situation a second time. But the more I thought about it, I realized how important his reaction was. What if I had been victimized? His concern illustrated his willingness to get involved and help.
Most of my friends found my situation comical, and among people who knew how it happened, it was. But I soon found how incredibly uncomfortable it made me as well as other people when assumptions were made by strangers. The blatant staring in a crowded elevator, the sideways comments made by people on the bus, the eyes of pity from the woman behind the counter of the bodega near my apartment… they all made me feel like I was weak and unable to stand up for myself. I couldn’t believe how many dirty looks were directed at my boyfriend when we walked together holding hands, as well as the many concerned expressions from those who believed I was staying in an abusive relationship. When shopping with my mother, a retail-worker told me that shopping was a great way to boost self-esteem when one is going through a rough time. When I told her that my injury was from rugby rather than abuse, she seemed simultaneously surprised that someone of my size played rugby and relieved that her assumptions were incorrect. In her defense, the first reaction is pretty typical; a lot of people don’t know how popular rugby is with women in college.
A few passer-bys offered some relief. I got some makeup tips from a woman on a subway. One man asked me how my opponent faired in comparison to me; another asked how anyone could beat on such a pretty face. Men at a bar on the Lower East Side constantly came up to me throughout the night to tell me how sexy I was, which I found surprising given that most of them didn’t ask how I got such a shiner. Quite possibly my favorite comment was made while I was walking down 5th Avenue on the phone with my boyfriend happily planning our rendezvous when a man commented to his friend not-so-subtly: “That’s the happiest battered woman I’ve ever seen!”
It’s been over a week now. My face has gone through the entire color spectrum, what was once a mélange of dark reds and blues has now transitioned to more pleasant yellows and greens. This experience really opened my eyes (such a terrible pun, please forgive me) to the stigma society places on victims of domestic violence. From my experiences, I feel like many are hesitant to ask questions and get involved in someone’s “personal matters” and subsequently try to ignore the issue. I’ve thanked every single person that has asked what happened because it shows me that they care enough to risk the possibility of hearing a not-so-pleasant answer. The prevalence of violence against women around the world is unacceptable. While each nation has to address the issue on the domestic level, it is incredibly important for the international community to address violence against women. There are thirty days left to sign UNIFEM’s Say NO! to Violence Against Women petition and I implore you to put your name to this cause. Offer a helping hand to women in need by declaring that violence against women is never justifiable.