Monday, April 24, 2006
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.