Saturday, July 29, 2006

An Education for Me

I recently attended a national conference where I learned how to form public awareness campaigns and educate communities about domestic violence and sexual assault.

While there I had some big awakenings:

#1 Anger is unhelpful.

I mean, of course this makes sense. If I ever train a group of health care professionals, clergy or police officers, I would never come across like I do on this blog. This blog is a place for me to vent my anger and say what I'm really thinking. I don't worry about coming off as bitter or even offensive, I just write what I feel.

I have always assumed that this blog can be just that for me because it's not a publication or any public p.s.a. Now however, I'm worried. I realize how much anger can turn people off and how it can shut the door on any helpful dialogue. I don't speak for all feminists, I really only speak for me at the moment. I don't think I will be able to get rid of my anger, and I shouldn't have to. I enjoy my anonymity and I utilize this site to vent. So please know, I speak only for me and I'm sorry about the anger. But sometimes I just need to fume.

#2 Oppression is everything

Sexual assault and domestic violence has everything to do with society as a whole. I saw a PSA created by another campaign that showed a beautiful rural farm scene with the narrator saying, "Jim's neighbors helped him last year when he hurt his back. They helped him with the chores and farm work, and even helped him beat his wife, because they knew Jim was hitting her and did nothing to help. It's hard to know what to do. Call us and we can help."

Imagine, an ad not directed at abused women telling them what to do... but rather targeting neighbors, friends and community members for ignoring the problem.

I mean, people will call the police department if their neighbor's dog is barking too loudly, but how many people pick up a phone if they suspect their neighbor is beating their spouse?

#3 It's not because men are "violent"

Men don't beat women because they are violent. Men beat because they have been taught that women are objects or property. And by that logic, you can "use," "control," and "beat" what you own. We teach our society a hierarchy of oppression. That's why there is such a tiny minority of situations in which women beat their male partners. However, when you look at stats of child abuse, we see that it is evenly split, women and men are equally likely to abuse children because in the hierarchy of oppression children are controlled by both parents equally.

So in essence, violence has less to do with a particular gender being bad but has everything to do with the way we devalue groups of people based on our power and control over them. This can also be seen in history-- the Holocaust was possible because Jewish people were objectified, devalued and considered sub-human.

#4 Victim blaming is not a myth

People (mean people) want to act like women have it so easy now. Like all a woman has to do is accuse a man of abuse or rape and she's gonna get all this sympathy and win her case easily. Um-- yeah NO! Look at court stats or work at a women's shelter for a week. Or-- simply listen to the way people STILL talk. For example:

On rape victims:

What you hear:

What was she doing walking alone that late at night?
Why did she get so drunk at that party?
She was flirting with a ton of guys, wasn't she?
Well what did she expect wearing that?

What you should hear:

What gave him the right to sexually assault her?

On victims of domestic violence:

What you Hear:

Why did she marry a wife beater?
Can she quit complaining and move out?
She keeps going back to him?
What did she say to provoke him?
She was drinking too, right?

What you should hear:

Why does he beat his wife?

This happens because we put all the blame on women. Of course, it's important to help women leave abusive situations but do we ever stop and think, "Does this makes sense that SHE should have to leave her home? Why doesn't he leave?" And we teach girls to never walk alone at night, always keep an eye on your drink etc. But do we really teach young men to respect women and not use a state of intoxication as an excuse for rape? Because we are so focused on teaching women what "not to do," when a woman is abused or raped... we often feel it is somehow her fault, after all-- -We taught her what not to do, so she must have done something wrong. But remember only rapists can 100% prevent rape, and only the abusers can stop abuse.

Every time I attend conferences like this last one, I get a renewed surge of hope as I see how many people are dedicated in the fight to end oppression and violence. But today, as I was surfing the internet, I was also reminded of what we have left to fight.

I found t-shirts on a men's website emblazoned with these messages:

"Women are Property, Put em Where They Belong: on Their Knees, Barefoot, Spanked, and Pregnant!"

"Repeal the 19th amendment! Anti-Women Voting, Women should be Seen not Heard!"

"Repent Being Feminists! Your Children Need You at Home and the Sex is Better When Women Obey Their Husbands."

We still have these ideas to combat, so keep up the good fight and if that means you need to open a blog and god forbid, "bitch" a little. I understand, believe me!!!


Anonymous said...

Delurking… great post!

I mean, people will call the police department if their neighbor's dog is barking too loudly, but how many people pick up a phone if they suspect their neighbor is beating their spouse?

Here in London (UK) the police receive a domestic violence call every five minutes. We did an analysis of the source of the calls and guess how many came from neighbours? 4 freakin’ percent. In a survey of women in refuges (shelters) 89% said their neighbour knew.

And here too the standard question about domestic violence is 'why doesn’t she just leave?' to which my stock response is 'Why do you care what she does? Her behaviour is not the problem.'

do we ever stop and think, "Does this makes sense that SHE should have to leave her home? Why doesn't he leave?"

We have done some thinking on that here in the UK and have created another option called Sanctuary.

It's not an option for all abused women but for those that choose it (and the emphasis *is* on it being her choice) the Government will now pay for additional security to your home (average cost is £2,000 per property - c. $3,700) including both external security and making one internal room (usually the main bedroom) secure so that there’s another place to run to should the abuser still manage to break in. This room is completely fire-proofed and an alarm straight to the police station is also installed in there.

In the better schemes, this extra security is provided along with a specialist support worker who will help the woman develop safety measures for the totality of her life so as to avoid her home becoming the only place she feels secure.

Anger is unhelpful.

It's true that hostility in a training scenario is rarely helpful but I do know from my own experience of over two decades of delivering training on violence against women that directing my anger into passionate advocacy for abused women *is* something which gets attention.

Even when the delegates don’t agree with my analysis / solutions, I still get respect for my obvious passion and commitment which means we can at least have a dialogue. And since I come from the position that neutrality on violence against women is collusion (and a delusion created by professionals which rarely convinces either survivor or offender!), taking such a stance myself would be somewhat hypocritical!

I'd love to hear more about the conference by the way...


Sarah said...

Tobes, you amaze me every day, every time I read this. I love reading your blog because you are so intelligent and honest and you never back down from anyone. I wish you were president.

Tobes said...

Thank you to both of you! I will try and blog more about what I learned at the conference.

Thanks for the support Sarah. Glad to know I'd have your vote :):) Can you imagine if I ran for public office and this site was tied to me? YIKES!!

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