Monday, April 24, 2006

Domestic Violence-- our responsibility

This post was inspired by a debate in the “comment section” of a previous blog entry.

I have been disagreeing for some time with a man formerly “Anonymous,” now known as "zZz." The funny thing is, I don't think we're really disagreeing. We're just not communicating. He said, “I see you think that a woman can not be counted on to make the correct decisions about her life.” I have never said this. The debate zZz and I have revolves around who is responsible for ending domestic violence.

He keeps asking me for a solution. First of all, I think I have made this clear. But for the sake of clarification, I will say it again:

I believe the solution lies with education—of everyone, men, women and children. How can we expect the cycle to stop when we have young boys and girls growing up watching mental, verbal or physical violence as an example of a marriage or relationship? We need to talk about D.V. in school, what causes it, who’s at risk, how to get help, how to support the victims/survivors.

The solution also lies with putting the responsibility where it lies- on the abuser. Why do people say, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” I have a radical thought for ya’ll… “Why should SHE leave?” Why should she leave her home, all her belongings, her neighbors, community, job? Why doesn’t the violent, law-breaking, abusive partner leave?

zZz imparted this wisdom on my blog, “It seems to be the needy ones. The ones that get off on a super attentive husband that keeps track of her every movement and buy her flowers all the time.” This is how he understands victim mentality. It must be her fault she “gets off on it” or “she’s needy.” Not HE has a problem, HE should stop, someone should have taught HIM better.

I had the opportunity to interview Tanya Brown, sister of the late Nicole Brown Simpson. She told me how angry she was after Nicole’s murder. She had no idea that Nicole was being abused because Nicole was hiding it from everyone. Nicole Brown Simpson was in an abusive relationship and this was not her fault. It was not because she was needy or got off on it. It was because she fell in love with a man who exploited her. He manipulated her, told her she was “fat and ugly” during her pregnancies, made her constantly paranoid about her body, monitored her every move and yelled at her if she looked at other men or even cut her hair a way he didn’t like—this was all before anything physical began! And by then, she was thoroughly manipulated, tired and depressed, just trying to survive. Plus she had two children with O.J.

Nicole tried to leave at different times, but O.J. showed up at her door, crying and talking about how he was abused as a child, how Nicole was the best thing in his life and how he would do anything to be good to her and keep her with him. She would remember the love she had, and look at the father of her children and take him back. Eventually when Nicole had enough and left for good, she ended up losing her life. Obviously O.J. really couldn’t let her go.

We all want to believe that it’s not “that hard” to get out. We don’t want to fear this happening to our sisters, friends, or daughters. When in reality, nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives (according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey)! This is the same mentality I used to have about acquaintance rape. I thought I would be safe because I was smarter than all these women who let themselves get too intoxicated or put themselves in dangerous situations. I told myself I was immune so I would feel safe. I didn’t want to believe I could be a victim. If I acted “right” and was “strong” – I was at no risk, right? Well, needless to say, in my college experience, I have realized that these attacks cannot be prevented and it’s not my fault. It’s the attacker who takes advantage.

I saw a button once that said “Domestic Violence. Don’t make excuses. Make it stop.”

I’m sure zZz would point to women who need to quit making excuses. He said in one comment, “The real solution to the problems you write about come from within. When women accept abuse, when they bail out their abuser, when they turn a blind eye to child abuse on her children, there really is not much to be done.”

In fact, when I suggested that the responsibility did not lie with the abused but with the abuser, zZz twisted this further saying, “It would equate an adult female with children and the mentally retarded, people who cannot think or act for themselves and need constant care and supervision. A single adult female would need a guardian under that theory.”

Of course, we want abused women to feel that they have responsibility to empower themselves. No one can jump in and save these women. If a woman isn’t ready to leave no one can make her do it. But this doesn’t mean a women who can’t leave is mentally impaired or child-like. We have to do PREVENTION not just intervention. We need to step up and help when women come forward saying, “I want to leave, please help me do it safely.”

We have to work to prevent D.V. by encouraging the community to take responsibility. Domestic violence is not a family issue or a marriage issue, it’s a community issue. We need to tolerate the perpetrators less and stop saying things like “she should just leave” because it’s NOT easy to leave, nor is it safe (see Nicole Brown Simpson’s story for proof)

Finally zZz said, “Only women can solve the problem, and it is not you guys yelling at men, it is women smarting up and not putting up with it in the first place.”

I’m not yelling at men. I’m inviting them to join a movement to stop violence, to be an example to other men who perpetrate this violence. When you hear a buddy talk about how he gave his girlfriend a smack for “smarting off” speak up and say, “Absolutely not cool. You should never lay a hand on a person you care about.”

Men already play a crucial role. My own father volunteers at the community violence intervention center helping women escape these situations. I am so proud of him. So I am definitely not pointing the finger at men and screaming “YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.” I have plenty of men in my life who are part of the solution, and it makes me proud.

Hopefully my humble blog can be a part of the solution as well. EVERYONE has a role in ending the epidemic of D.V. but it’s absolutely NOT the sole responsibility of abused women to simply “leave.” That logic takes us no where. It leaves the woman without a home and vulnerable to retaliation and it doesn’t challenge the behavior of the person hurting her.

Speaking out is not pointless. If enough people did it, abusers may be more ashamed of what they do.


zZz said...

I don't think more education on domestic violence will do much good.
But who can argue against it? If you are against it, then you must be for keeping people in the dark.

But does it work?

Lets look at the DARE program, the "Drug Abuse Resistance Education" does it work? Nope.
There is nothing in it for most people in government to say "Hey! This program has used billions of tax dollars and does nothing!" In fact it is counterproductive to their career to take a stand like that.

I think these kind of education programs are made by people with good intentions, they just don't follow up with efficacy studies, and they aren't willing to throw in the towel when it proves itself ineffective. $750 million dollars per year are spent on dare. Net

Would your dream program of education and awareness of domestic violence be effective? Who in the classroom would get the most out of it? Who benefits the most with respect to their goals, the young women who's goal it is to be safe and secure, or the young man who is presented with a detailed step by step analysis of how men first lure their victim into the relationship then slowly isolate them from friends and family and once they are in complete control and the women have no support system, the beatings commence.

I don't know that your dream program would have that effect but you should consider that what you are advocating could in fact have the opposite of the intended effect. We have good evidence of that with the dare program.

I understand the mindset that it is entirely the fault of the beater and the beaten have no blame. I don't disagree. As far as blame goes when it comes to court the blame needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the beater, otherwise the punishment gets reduced. But holy cow tell me how you expect someone, who just beat his wife, to just pack up and leave in shame? It is not going to happen. Wishful thinking is what that is. The woman can have the man arrested and a restraining order against him and while she is still in danger she is in her own home and free. If there is a better way to get out of one of those situations what exactly do you see as the mechanics of the process being?

Tobes said...

I never experienced the DARE program in my school but I am aware of its inefficiency rate. However, what does this have to do with domestic violence. Telling kids to "Just say No" as opposed to openly talking about relationships and engaging kids on an adult level, not relying on Lifetime movies or talking down to teens or children.

A program that approached relationships and didn't condescend might be effective. It couldn't just be in-class curriculum but rather a combination of public service announcements, a change in how we report on D.V. in media and even bringing in people to speak to schools who have stories to share. This change in education has to happen everywhere, even local churches could offer help for victims of abuse. We have to change the courts, educate the police force to better handle domestic disturbance calls... it goes on and on.

If you want to talk real waste of money, lets examine the billions of dollars that are currently going into abstinence education. Talk about a real waste of funds.

I never claimed that ending D.V. was easy in fact completely eradicating D.V. is likely impossible but we can make it safer, we can change the "she should leave mindset" and the mindset that it OK to abuse your partner.

But we can do something and it's not realistic to compare D.V. to the drug problem in America. People start using drugs either because curious, rebelling against parents, or looking for something to help them escape from the real world. I don't think these reasons apply for why people abuse.

Sarah said...

I have been quiet about this for a while, reading both sides and just kind of seeing what everyone has to say. While I appreciate a good debate as much as any other intelligent young woman who considers herself well-read on the subject we are discussing, this is the very basic, bottom line that 'ZZZ' seems to be saying:

We can't do anything about domestic violence so what's the point in talking about it.

If I am wrong than please correct me, but it seems this has been going on just for the sake of argument and a chance for you to prove Tobes wrong, which I still have yet to see you do. I am not trying to start an additional argument here or anything, but it seems like that has always been what 'ZZZ' has been trying to do.

Comparing the D.A.R.E. program to potential programs about domestic violence seems like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, they're kind of the same because they're educational, but not so much, not really.

I think programs on domestic violence are definitely something I would be in favor of. To say that these programs would present young men with, "...a detailed step by step analysis of how men first lure their victim into the relationship then slowly isolate them from friends and family and once they are in complete control and the women have no support system, the beatings commence" seems to imply that you think that
once young men hear these ideas (which of course they have never heard of or seen ever before) the program will have an adverse effect and thus they will begin to act on these very ideas we were trying to prevent. I am sure that talking about domestic violence in school will be the first time any young men or women for that matter will have ever heard of the subject. All the young men will suddenly decide that it is a grand idea to beat their girlfriends and all the young women will decide that these are relationships they feel okay being in.


I don't really see how that will happen. This will hardly be the first time students will have ever heard of such topics, so I am not sure that I see the correlation between educating about domestic violence and turning the youth of America into wife-beaters.

I think the point Tobes is trying to make is that children and young adults are surrounded by violence in the media every day. By educating them, by showing them that this is not an acceptable way to live their lives and is not something to be tolerated, that is where we can start putting an end to this violence, which I think we all can agree would be a good thing.

Midge said...

I did experience DARE, and I think that it could have been much more effective if it had just been postponed a few years. It was part of our 6th grade curriculum-- none of us had any idea how real and serious this issues were.

I think that a great DV program could be implemented at the high school level if we could get enough abused people and enough ex-abusers to come and talk to the kids and talk about things like control, self-esteem, etc. A lot of my friends now say that they were first abused by their boyfriends as early as Junior High. That's ridiculous!

I think that it WOULD be good for men and women to know when the line is being crossed. DV doesn't start with a guy hitting his wife-- it starts first with manipulation that the abuser may not even realize that he's doing, but with the proper education could trigger alarm bells in the abused head.

Sarah said...

I agree with midge. I had the DARE program in 5th grade. At this age I didn't even know what half the drugs were that they were trying to tell us about.

I think implementing some sort of program as early as 9th grade could be beneficial. Perhaps including it as a unit in Health class? When I was in high school part of our Health class included some talk about 'healthy relationships' and covered a lot of topics, but sparsely. What can you really expect from a gym teacher, after all? We also had classes offered from the Family and Consumer Science department that taught briefly on the subject of healthy relationships, but obviously something much more comprehensive is necessary. While we may not ever be able to completely eradicate domestic violence, at least this could be step in the right direction.

zZz said...

The reason I mentioned the DARE program is because it is an educational program that has been implemented across the US in an effort to prevent crime. The similarity is that it is an educational program, the difference is that drug abuse is a different kind of crime than domestic violence on several levels. I don't dispute that at all, but take a read at this PhD's take on the DARE program.

Quoting from the article:

"Although DARE is a dismal failure, there is good news. The social norms marketing technique has repeatedly been found effective in reducing both the consumption and the abuse of
alcohol. Most students incorrectly believe that more of their peers consume and abuse alcohol than is the actual case. Therefore, they tend to conform in order to "fit in." When a credible survey of a student body is conducted and then the surprising results widely promoted, student drinking drops dramatically as students discover the truth. The technique is easy and inexpensive to implement and the effects occur quickly. And it has been found effective in reducing smoking and illegal drug use as well."

Doesn't sound relevant to domestic violence unless you are considering the psychological effect of the "education". Pointing out that alcohol abuse is widespread has the opposite from intended effect. Children want to conform.

It make me wary of going in to a classroom and showing stats about "the huge number" of domestic violence incidents.

Believe me when I say that we both want the same outcome. We all want domestic violence to decrease. My ideas about accomplishing our common goal seem to be radically different though.

When a new guy that is working for me asks me how I want him to accomplish a task I explain to him that I am "results oriented". This means that I don't care how you get there (within reason) just that you get the job done with the best results the fastest and cheapest (I hired you for your brains). We do not cut corners and we always try to do a better job than promised. If our solution does not work we take it back at no charge. Customer satisfaction is the primary goal.

In the case of reducing domestic violence, the customer is the taxpayer. Results are paramount. If you have the idea that education is the key then by all means try it. But for gods sake measure the result, and put a dollar value to it so other methods can be compared. I imagine that there have already been domestic violence education programs implemented in some school with a large enough sample population to get good stats. If not then lets do it!

I have doubts about Tobes plan because it seems to be the same old "lets improve it" without specifics. What this really means is lets throw money at the problem and hope it goes away. If the problem stays the same or gets worse then the obvious solution is to throw more money at the problem.

That type of thinking really irks me . It is lazy thinking. It is "lets do something that makes ~me~ feel good about doing it" type thinking. Results are a secondary concern. Bah! I demand results for my tax dollars not the "warm and fuzzy" that comes with charity.

Tobes, I ask you for specifics. You say "change the courts" I ask how? You say "educate the police force to better handle domestic disturbance calls" I say what is "better"? You have told me in no uncertain terms that men dont have a "big rubber stamp of "wife beater" on their forehead" so you _can't_ know who is the wife beater. Does this education help the women avoid the first time they are abused? How?

The bottom line is that if you can show that your plan has a good return for the dollar then I am your number one fan! I have no ego as far as results are concerned, show me the way and I will follow willingly. But if the results are fuzzy then feel free to spend _your_ dollars on it, but not a penny of mine.

As far as your comment on abstinence programs, my feeling are the same as yours. I think in general talking about sex just makes kids think more about sex. Parents need to talk to their kids about that, not teachers with some agenda that contradicts the parents.

Tobes said...

Zzz-- I don't think I can give you the information you are looking for in a comment or even in a blog entry. I have worked with D.V. education by working with non profits and my home state and we have written literally-- books on how to better equip and train the police force to handle domestic calls. How they speak to women, how they speak to men, how to handle children.

We have planned 5-week long seminars to lobby for better drafted protection orders and stronger laws so that when an abuser does violate the protection order, more proper steps are taken (jail time).

We have to go through laws with a fine tooth comb. For example, there was a man harassing his ex-wife and threatening her life because he was out of prison on work order-- meaning he was taken out of prison for the day to work and then shipped back at night for lock up. We have to work to revoke his work status and then somehow compensate because the state relies on prison inmates for certain work.

I don't plan on boring the readers of my blog with the fine print of all these laws. But I assure you we aren't bleeding hearts looking for warm fuzzies. We spend just as much time researching the reaction of educational programs as we do implementing them. We HAVE to measure the effectiveness of all school programs because if they don't work, we lose funding. So believe me, we aren't throwing money away.

These aren't some wishy washy ideas I'm talking about.

Tyler M Tupa said...

I don't remember learning about what to do if your father hits your mother (or the other way around) in school. I don't think it was even mentioned. Parents are supposed to be a place to go for help and support. Many kids who have abusive parents are unaware of what to do, and thus develop problems of their own.

If there was a way to teach kids what to do in this situation, it would help a lot of families. Maybe it is the child who calls 911, and saves his mother/father from further abuse.

It's easy to regulate what kids learn in school, but not what they take out of it. It is not as simple as saying "To keep a child from learning something, just take it out of the curriculum."

I think the best way to keep kids in the know is to give them ALL the information. They will make a decision, no matter what you tell them (as a parent or as a teacher). Giving them accurate information can only help them.

And if that's the case, and it does help a child, then it is worth any amount of money spent. You are right zZz, spending HUGE amounts of money looks bad when results don't show. It shouldn't be a major program, it should be a part of regular schooling.

DARE was just too awkward, and just rubbed this generation of kids the wrong way. But hey, you want results? I went through DARE, and I'm drug free.

zZz said...

Well Tobes I certainly wouldn't want to bore your readers but surely a link to the studies showing the effectiveness of your programs would not be too much to ask. Titles and authors of the books you helped write would be appreciated too.

Tobes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tobes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Midge said...

I don't see Tobes making YOU qualify yourself, zzz. I'd like to know what books YOU'VE written and how you've contributed to ANY cause, other than making comments on a blog.

Tobes said...

Pardon me for deleting the information I posted earlier about specific websites you coudl visit about d.v. programs I was working in.

It has been brought to my attention that these sites could give away my identity. Something I am not so comfortable doing since I have received some lovely death threats from time to time.

You shall just have to trust me.