Maribel Maseda is an expert in techniques of selfawareness  and gender violence. She was the first Spanish woman invited by the World Bank’s 50/50 Society to give a talk about equality and abuse. She has authored “The safe zone” where she considers and discusses how to switch the problem of abuse into empowerment for people  suffering from it, and thus, helping the victims to live their lives  with dignity and selfesteem. Ultimately, it is a manifesto for hope, as it helps the person who is suffering abuse  to remember her true self, what her entitlements are, what she can demand from society. It is a reminder that abused women can always find the way back  to a healthy lifestyle without feeling ashamed, skipping the feeling that you  must pay an insurmountable moral debt to the world for having been the victim of an aggressor. In this book, the person who has suffered abuse or is being  abused, will find a way to regain her true identity.

On the 25th we celebrate the International Day against gender violence. Is it forthcoming the day when we will be able to celebrate the end of gender violence?

Indeed, November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. But the day has not yet arrived in which we can celebrate the elimination of this violation of human rights. To get there, the involvement of men in the desire to advance towards a society centered on human rights, irrespective of sex, will be required. The desire for living together in fairness will just not happen without the necessary involvement of men and women who understand and respect the values on which it should be set up. It is not a struggle of women against men. It is meant to highlight the need of an effort by both sexes to build up a strong society, as they both have much to contribute in the building of a better world.

The number of battered women in the world is as chilling as it is shameful the rate of offenders. For the latter is the only and true  root of the problem whereas, in the real world, it is  only the woman who is presented as the reason for its existence.

When you see some news about abuse, sometimes  thoughts come to mind like “Why does not she leave? Why hold? ” In what situation is the victim unable to escape?

The woman suffering abuse is suffering an induced state of confusion that prevents her to discern not only healthy behaviors from those which are not, but even her own emotions, reactions, desires and, still worse, her own right to complain.

While one part of society continue to place on the same level the victim and the aggressor, it will serve to feed her confusion, as this amounts to receiving from the healthy side a blaming response, similar to that received from her abuser.

Questions and expressions like these prompted me to write a book to put in place  each of the parties involved in a relationship which is as unhealthy as it is unknown to a large segment of the population, whatever the country. This implies a basic mistake that inevitably leads to an error in the design of the solutions.

It is essential to provide a complete, true, real and updated  information about the abuse problem, so that it reaches not only the victim but the whole of society. Even though this may suggest that, in the absence of a battered woman profile, but only of the abusive person, any member of society might become a victim.

How can we know if we have a perpetrator?

As long as there are abusive people, there will be people who suffer their abuse, and since it is difficult to identify them from the very moment they arise in their social group, it is likely that many  citizens will be already interacting with them without knowing it: on the subway, in the cafe, at work, at meetings of friends … The physical assault being subsequent to the psychological and emotional aggression, those in the abuser’s circle, unaware that he is a violent person, may take his jokes, comments, or his despicable and insulting approach to women as a quirky, funny behavior, and even as a sign that “he has not yet discovered love”      – as if he required to be saved from his emotional deprivation. This reaction actually turns the abuser into a victim. Just what the mistreated woman does, who is criticized by society for “giving in to manipulation”.

It is urgent to stop associating the image of women with the image of abuse and rather put the spotlight on the aggressor. We should present the key statistics by number of abusers in the world rather than  the number of abused women in the world. We  should realize that it is almost always the woman who portraits the idea of abuse in the mind of the average citizen; therefore, she is the one that is brought to account, because the other person, the only one guilty of the assault, the perpetrator, is never available …

To what extent can your book help a victim of abuse or anyone else?

In my book “The safe zone”, I describe the process by which a woman becomes confident, protective, conciliatory … a regular process when a relationship starts. But she does not cause the abuse; it is the partner, who taking advantage of the commitment to love, exhibits his inability to recognize it and projects his frustration by blaming the woman, who will likely make every effort posible to redress the shortcomings that she thinks she sees in her partner’s attacks. The abuser is unable to love, and, therefore, what he is giving his victim is not love, but a punishment for his own incapability. And is not her fault because of who she is, for when she leaves the relationship her attacker will begin another one that will be a continuation of the  offending behavior.

We must help the woman suffering abuse to remember: remember when she was dreaming about a future life, so that she can see that the man she dreamt of sharing her life with would not hit or assault her. Such possibility would just not fit with her sound idea of love. To        remember that, whatever her talents may be, she will always have some potential and the chance to put them into practice. That everything in life is a process, and although it may take time, and effort, any forthcoming day will be “the day” in which she begins to regain her life.

Translated by Arturo Guillén.