By Lavinia Masters
As a young girl in school I was always taught that a weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans (and other life forms) and/or cause great damage to man-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere in general. In other words this weapon has the capacity to inflict death and destruction indiscriminately and on a massive scale. However the scope and application of the term has evolved and been disputed, often signifying more politically than technically.
Today I challenge what politics and society consider weapons of mass destruction because in this life I have come to discover a mass of weapons and evil devices that not only destroy the human being but these weapons destroy the human spirit. The weapons that I speak of all leave a devastating and long lasting negative effect on the victims yet they are weapons that seem to not be prioritized by politicians and society today when it comes to seeking and destroying them.
The weapons that I speak of also carry the capacity to inflict death and destruction indiscriminately and on a massive scale and they are sexual abuse/assault, domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking and missing and exploited children. These indeed are all the real weapons of mass destruction. These are heinous and horrendous crimes that happen to the young and old, rich or poor, black or white, male or female. These weapons not only destroy the individual lives and their way of living but they also destroy their families, friends, loved ones and their communities.
Did you know that the impact of sexual abuse on children can be devastating and long-lasting because children are generally victimized by someone they should be able to trust and depend on, they may not realize that the abuse is wrong and not their fault? Even after much time has passed, the effects of sexual abuse are powerful and it has been found that the long-term effects of maltreatment to include poor self-esteem, difficulty trusting others, anxiety, feelings of isolation and stigma, depression, self-destructive tendencies, sexual maladjustment, and substance abuse. In addition to these effects, a survivor of sexual abuse/ assault may develop Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) and have possible physiological effects such as hyper vigilance (always being "on your guard"), insomnia, exaggerated startle response (jumpiness) ,panic attacks ,eating problems/disorders, self-mutilation (cutting, burning or otherwise hurting oneself),Sexual dysfunction (not being able to perform sexual acts) and hyper arousal (exaggerated feelings/responses to stimuli).
Then there is domestic violence which is the single major cause of injury to women, more significant than auto accidents, rapes, or muggings. In fact, the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted by batterers may be more costly to treat in the short-run than physical injury. Many of the physical injuries sustained by women seem to cause medical difficulties as women grow older and to add insult to injury battered women lose their jobs because of absenteeism due to illness as a result of the violence. Although the long term effects of domestic violence have not begun to be fully documented battered women suffer physical and mental problems as a result of domestic violence. Then it’s sad how survivors of domestic violence seem to often lose family and friends as a result of the battering. Generally because first, the batterer isolates them from family and friends then second, they become embarrassed by the abuse inflicted upon them and withdraw from support persons to avoid embarrassment.
Then there is a weapon that sometimes attacks us all and some are still unaware that they are indeed or have been a victim and that is the weapon of stalking; which is the crime of harassing somebody with persistent, inappropriate, and unwanted attention. Rokkers wrote, "Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwontedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom they have no relationship (or no longer have)." For the most part, the separate acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but taken together they do, as there is a cumulative effect. Stalking leaves a victim unsure or living in the fear of what would happen to them next or afraid that the behavior would not stop not to mention that their stalker would not only cause bodily harm to them but their child or other family member.
Now on the other hand the weapon of human trafficking does not only affect victims, it takes a toll on the child or children of the victim. Many a times, victims strive to survive, even when they do not know the way out to protect their children. Virtually every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, either as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. Due to the nature of trafficking there are three constituent elements that make up human trafficking, firstly the act; the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, the means; threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud and abuse of power and the purpose; for the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs. One alarming fact about this weapon is that women constitute the largest proportion of trafficked persons and with over half of trafficked victims being women they are the ones forced into sexual slavery and prostitution. The mass of trafficking victims are between 18-24 years of age, with also an estimated 1.2 million children trafficked yearly.
Then the last weapon I want you to consider destroys on such a massive level that it was one of my worst nightmares when I had my son; this weapon attacks like a thief in the night and that is the weapon of missing children. When a child is kidnapped or abducted, he/she is put into captivity against their will. When a person who was missing as a result of abduction is found, they can have adverse psychological effects. Abduction is a very traumatic experience in which the victim has suffered through an emotional and physical ordeal. The experience can be so traumatic it will take time and possibly professional help to assist in coping with it. The sad part about this weapon is that some children are never found and some children when they are found are no longer alive.
So I ask you how can we sit idly by and let these weapons of mass destruction continue to destroy our lives, our families, communities and the world without trying to find a solution. How do we consciously continue to say we love our children, communities and country when we are found lacking in the support of fighting against these heinous crimes? What do our children learn when they see us take the “backseat” to making changes in the laws or legislation when it comes to addressing that we as a society find an end to the real weapons of mass destruction.
You see school may have taught me a lot on how the way things should be defined but life has shown me how life really is. These weapons of mass destruction have been launched all over the world and they are subtly stealing, killing and destroying our world. I ask, are you prepared to fight in this battle…you should be because no one is exempt.