In a world where women are responsible for their safety and men are not accountable for their actions, being aware for one month out of twelve is a death wish the other eleven.
In a world where everyone knows women are degraded, beaten, raped and murdered merely being aware of violence against women is to be complicit in the crime.
We have these awareness months so everyone can feel good and go back to business as usual with no real changes.
Let’s do something different this year. Enough of the purple nail polish and high-dollar ad campaigns. Let’s change the way we weave the fabric of our culture.
We still live in a world where women and girls are degraded at every turn.
We still live in a world where might makes right.
We still live in a world where we have HIS-story but not HER-story.
We still live in a world where we victim-blame.
We still live in a world where children are raped and murdered.
We still live in a world where women are paid less and work more.
We can’t win a battle against domestic violence by separating it from the rest of reality. We can’t stop abusers by being half-heartedly aware for 31 days. Do you know someone who had been a victim of domestic violence? Stupid question. Of course you do. Everyone does. One out of four women. Do you know four women? Chances are high one of them is or has been a victim of domestic violence. What did you do?
Better question: do you know someone who has committed an act of violence against a partner or child? Of course you do. Everyone does. Chances are really high if you know the woman you know the partner. What did you do? How do you speak about women when you are around him? What have you done to address a culture of gender based oppression that is behind violence against women and gender non-conforming people?
Even better question: have you ever been the victim of violence? Have you been abused, harassed, stalked, threatened, raped, screamed at, called names, driven insane by crazy-making? There’s a pretty good chance you have. I have.
When you live with or date someone who is abusive you are not merely aware for a month. First you aren’t aware at all. Abusers don’t exactly introduce themselves that way. Then things start to get fuzzy. You’re not really sure just what’s going on. Maybe he plays the hot-cold game and when you try to explain how confusing it is to you it turns into a two day fight over Facebook Messenger in which you end up apologizing for having felt confused.
Pretty soon it isn’t fuzzy anymore. It’s always tense. You’re always tense. You have to be because you never know what’s going to set him off. One day he accuses you of smothering him and the next day he’s in a cold rage because you tried to give him some space and sat on the other side of the room. Tension turns to hyper-vigilance after a few rounds. You know something is wrong.
We victims usually do. We aren’t stupid. Sometimes we genuinely love these people. We know they aren’t evil and aren’t monsters. They can also be kind and caring and good providers. They know how to give good presents and good excuses and good apologies. Often they have experienced terrible trauma themselves. And we love them. We know something is wrong. We’re plenty aware of that fact. But we don’t know what to do. By this point he’s usually used a variety of tactics to isolate us. We have no where to go and everyone in our circle has been fed some story about how we have issues and are unreliable witnesses. He’s made sure of this.
We quietly disappear. Our family has been convinced we need “tough love.” Our bosses think we are lazy employees. Our teachers think we need to apply ourselves more. Our pastors have been told his version and know he’s a saint who volunteers all the time. We disappear. And no one calls or comes to see. Maybe we do tell someone. Do they listen? Do they check on us? Or do they question us and insist that we be responsible for our part and our feelings and stress a need for us to forgive and reconcile? Are we given empathy and support and room to heal or judgement and slander and silencing?
We are always aware, always on the look-out, always second guessing ourselves, always alert and vigilant. We have a hard time sleeping. We make mental lists of what might be real. We count the people we think we can trust. We forget what trust is. Every single moment is waiting for the bomb to go off. There is no safe place, no shelter, no respite.
Don’t just be aware of domestic violence, you people who think it doesn’t effect you. Go from aware to educated to allied to active. Please. Lives depend on it.
Coming soon to this blog near you: a new page with resources on intimate partner violence.