Sunday, October 10, 2010
Domestic Violence: Guilty as charged
If you haven't been told or have no presence on line, it is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Like any form of abuse, Domestic Violence is something we really try to avoid. I hear many argue that abuse in any form is dirty laundry we should not air. Many of us act as if it doesn't happen but it does. It happens every day. I am sure that if you walk into any room of any building you frequent and ask anyone if they have been a victim of domestic violence or even a witness, you will find that many hands will be raised.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 1 in 4 women has experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. The University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication conducted a study that took it a step further: 1 in 3 African American women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. I can go on to quote more numbers but it's not hard to see where we are going with this.
I am sure many if not all of my readers knows someone who has been affected by this. It's something we definitely need to air out and try to figure out the solutions. However, the number aren't really the scary part about it.
For something like domestic violence to continue to exist there has to be a culture or atmosphere that allows it to happen. A victimizer knows where to find his or her prey. A victimizer knows when he or she can assault and get away with it. Too often, I hear someone accuse another of domestic abuse and we either ignore the victim, blame the victim, or encourage the victimizer. We ignore the victim by choosing not to take action. We blame the victim by assuming it was something she or he did to provoke the victimizer. We encourage the victimizer through our inaction which allows that person to gain more power over the victim.
I have been in situations where I have intervened on the victim's behalf and was admonished by the victim for attempting to help. However, we must realize that at this point, the victim is powerless. She has no one to turn to and the victimizer usually controls the victims means of financial support. Many times, the victims are not working, have children to care for, and the primary breadwinner is the victimizer. We have witnessed how victimizers cut off all familial and social ties of the victim to remove that support system that the victim depended on before.
Let's delve deeper into this cycle of violence. Usually, the victimizer is someone we know and love. Sometimes that person is a comrade. The victimizer is someone we admire and depend on. The scary part is that usually we know what's going on but refuse to do anything about it. Instead we would prefer to hold on to the advantages of male patriarchy then attempt to challenge it. Let's be clear, domestic violence is also about power and maintaining that male patriarchy amongst other things. In the locker room and bars, we say “it's none of our business,” or “don't get in that man's business.” So we help foster an environment where the victimizer can carry on as if nothing happened.
We cannot depend on our religions to guide us because they help promote male patriarchy and in some instances even encourage beating or abusing one's wife. Our religions also encourage us to mind our business and not to “judge.” They provide no comfort or scripture for the victims. None of the ten commandments explain “thou shall not beat your spouse.” If anything, it is our religious institutions that seem to provide safe havens for victimizers.
As men, we should speak out against domestic violence whenever we see it. If a sister comes to us about someone we know who is abusing her, we should approach the accused and inquire about it. It's the least we can do. When someone is abused, we should open up our home to them and their children as a safe haven. We should lay down ground rules and explain to the victimizer that he is not welcomed in our homes. We should also encourage victims to seek justice and the victimizer to get help if he is sincere in changing his ways.
While it is easy to victim blame, place blame on a system, or on things outside of our community, we are guilty in fostering a climate where domestic violence is a norm. We are condemning the victims and giving safe haven to the victimizers. If we want our communities to be places where we promote peace, harmony, and reciprocity we must stop doing this. We have to discuss the problem and call out those who prey on the most vulnerable members of our community. We always talk about the village but very few of us want to be that village.