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Some notes on Safety

By Tatiana Loshchinina, psychologist


Due to the legendary Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy, safety, though being one of the ground needs of a human being, yet yields the palm to those of physiology: food, sleep, sex. I’ve always been pondering over this: I could hardly imagine a situation when I would prefer some food instead of getting safe from real danger. However, it is not accepted to dispute authorities. And, maybe, my misunderstanding rose from a simple reason: I’ve never found myself in the situation when food, sleep or sex could be more important than sense of security.

I wouldn’t have written about this if the story wouldn’t continue. In June 2017 I got an invitation to participate a US – Russian social expertise exchange project “Knowledge Can Stop Gender-Based Violence: Seeking New Solutions” as a psychologist. The project was focused upon the problem of gender-based violence – domestic violence among. The further I investigated this problem, the more reasonable my doubts seemed to me. Probably, in healthy interpersonal relations priorities are established in some other way than in Maslow’s hierarchy, addressed to a single identity. Safety, sense of security is a base, a foundation for trustful relations to be built. Here all kinds of security are crucial: physical, emotional, psychological, economic, religious, sexual etc.   

While visiting the USA in September 2017 I learned that here different social services, involved into domestic violence field, see safety and security of a person calling for help as their top priority aim. Let’s take a protection order as an example. It takes only a couple of hours (almost instantly!) for a caller to get an order. One can address court even via Skype from special social services center and when the order is issued an abuser has no right to come close to the caller. It means that even if they live together the abuser must leave immediately.  Then they have 30 days to lodge a complaint.

What does it mean? It means that first they provide safety and only after they start to investigate all pros and cons. It is a reasonable approach, to my mind.

However, I understand that in Russia we have quite different legal and law enforcement practice. We have no instruments to provide such fast and secure assistance and protection in questions of interpersonal relations. And that’s a pity! However, it seems to me that we, Russian, are not yet ready to have such instruments of protection. We still have not articulated our own requirement to personal security. We have troubles in understanding our personal boundaries – not only emotional but physical as well. We cannot say for sure what behavior is unacceptable for us. So we do not yet know what to safeguard and protect. So we have a situation when most urgent common needs for the Russian society are, so to say, food, sleep or sex. While security is a personal choice of every single one in particular. If you feel that you have a need of security in your interpersonal relation for a start, I may recommend to pay attention to your feelings, emotions, wishes and values. If you find them mostly negative, it may signal risks and danger: your personal boundaries may be broken through without your agreement.

{The text was written by the author while participating in the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange Program implemented by Eurasia Foundation. The views and opinions expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Eurasia Foundation}

Tatiana Loshchinina on cultural aspect of gender-based violence