In the United Kingdom, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other types of physical abuse are still considered to be taboo topics and women rarely talk about these experiences openly.
As an FGM specialist Midwife I see more than 50 women a month who have had FGM. These are predominantly historic cases that were carried out on the woman/girl in her country of origin prior to moving to the U.K. many years previously. However sometimes I see women that were cut in the U.K., or women who were born in the UK and taken abroad to be cut.
The impact of FGM and other physical violations, such as rape, will often be diagnosed during pregnancy or labour when a woman is being examined by a healthcare professional for the first time. Sadly the perpetrators of abuse are often family members or by people known to the victim.
Similarly, intercourse, conception and birth are times when a woman is at her most exposed and vulnerable. In our clinics we see the mental health consequences of abuse, such as acute anxiety, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, depression and women suffering flashbacks.
We never refer to women as victims but as FGM survivors and we recognise that the FGM practising community themselves must be at the forefront of change. In fact it is their relentless campaigning that has led to improvements in safeguarding and specialist service provision in recent years.
General awareness-raising by encouraging young people to seek help and to talk to their friends and family about the consequences of physical abuse is vital so that we break the silence around these practices.
We need to teach in schools the concepts of consent; give children the skills to identify a ‘trusted’ adult and ensure that they become knowledgeable about their own anatomy.
I would recommend:-
Violations by artist Gill White
The use of a red hot poker to form the images in this installation seem to me to symbolise the pain and lack of consent that go hand-in-hand with violations against women and girls.
The artwork will hopefully increase awareness by bringing this type of abuse out in the open to a wider audience and ultimately to ensure that both men and women are involved in these conversations.
Head of Knowledge Hub
National FGM Centre
Developing excellence in response to FGM
Barnardo’s Head Office,
Tanners Lane, Barkingside, Ilford, Essex, IG6 1QG