Written by Phil Lane, director of Oasis Belgium.
Every single refuge bed in Brussels is taken. All 1067 places for women who have been beaten, insulted, raped and humiliated are full. There is a waiting list. Think about that. If you are a woman in Brussels who has been assaulted, you have to put your name down on a list and stand in line before there is anywhere for you to stay. When we helped a woman put her name down yesterday, the waiting list was two weeks long.
Why, they ask, do women go back to their abusive partners? Often this question is asked with exasperation, as if these women are stupid, and if they refuse to help themselves. Aside from the fear, and the belief that if they make one wrong move they could be killed, or their children could be killed (a fear which is well grounded in fact), and the destruction of their self esteem so that women are so often caught up in a web of lies that makes them believe this is what love really looks like, aside from all that, many women return to their abusive partner because there is simply nowhere else to go. The waiting list is two weeks long. Where do you spend those two weeks? The authorities say that if it is a severe emergency then there are reserve beds or they can sleep in the hospital. What is this, a war? Do women have to be nearly dead before they receive any assistance as equal human beings, worthy of respect?
Today, we will go with a woman who has come to us for help and look for apartments. She has been granted money to help with rent if she can find somewhere for herself and her children. In the meantime she is staying in a flat that we have temporarily found. We will continue to call the refuges and we will continue to advocate for her so that she gets the money she is entitled to. Meanwhile, how many women in the city and across the country, and in your country are out in the cold, making the slow, dreadful steps back into violence because there is no other choice? How vulnerable does that make her to traffickers and exploiters as they come to offer a way out?
This month Oasis India and Oasis Belgium will be running an event called In The Long Run. Together we will run from Kolkata to Mumbai, holding awareness raising events and raising money for our work against human trafficking and in preventing violence against women and care for its survivors. Please donate, we can’t do this work without your money.
You can also help by ordering a t-shirt or tote bag.