And now I'm seeing it everywhere.
What's the connection, other than those words? These women are all survivors, first of all. They went through something pretty horrible, and made it out alive. So let's just sit back and admire the hell out of them for a little bit.
OK. Secondly, they are all women who were made to serve. Reshma, and thousands and thousands of women like her, have been virtual slaves of the overseas garment-factory business. Only with the recent spate of high-profile disasters have we begun to notice, or care, what has been going on over there. We love our cheap fashion, and we don't care to think about how it gets on our bodies.
"I began working in Bangladesh's garment industry at the age of 12, making just $3 a month," said one former child laborer. "I went to work because my father had a stroke and the family needed money to cover basic living expenses. I worked 23 days in a row, sleeping on the shop floor, taking showers in the factory restroom, drinking unsafe water and being slapped by the supervisor."
In this industry, the women (and it's mostly women) are not only working for brutally low wages, they are often victims of other kinds of abuse. They have family depending on them for their survival, and their supervisors know it. There's no accountability, so the men on top of them get to do whatever they want: they can slap them, make them work impossibly long hours, send them into dangerous machinery, and force them to stay inside a building that is already collapsing, or in flames. Reshma was literally trapped inside, but her story is a poignant reminder of all the women who are virtually trapped inside those factories, and who never make the news.
Back to the Cleveland case: What's really insane about that story, to me, is how not-unusual it is. There have been far too many cases just like this one: Elizabeth Smart. Jaycee Dugard. Natascha Kampusch. Elisabeth Fritzl. All women—or girls, originally—held long-term as sexual prisoners. (There have been some boys held prisoner, too: just not as many.)
But this appalling story is even more common than these high-profile cases. We just notice those more because they're happening in our backyards, to people who look like us. In much of the world (not to mention for the bulk of human history), women are treated like the Cleveland three — and it is no big deal. In swaths of Asia and Africa, you will find one man holding several girls as sexual prisoners, and it doesn't even occur to neighbors to help them escape. They are called his wives.
|Wayne Bent, of the Lord Our Righteousness Church|
I have my theories about what holds all these stories together, and what commonalities lie behind sexual (and economic) imprisonment of women, but I've alluded to them enough here. What are your theories? What leads to this kind of behavior, why is it so common, and how do we stop it?