Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why Everyone Must Combat Abuse & Domestic Violence

Domestic violence. Batterered wives. Domestic terrorism. Bah humbug. Who cares? None of my friends are abused. It has nothing to do with me. People may well say that; but how do you know? Are you sure your friend isn’t black and blue on the inside from verbal and emotional abuse and is keeping it private as is typical of abused women? And what about the receptionist at your doctor’s office? Could it be the name calling and put downs she’s getting at home made it so hard to concentrate that she put your papers in someone else’s file and now no one can find them? Could your coworker, whom you think has PMS, actually be in terror of unjustly losing custody of her children because of threats from her almost ex-husband and because the court tends to believe the statements of an angry aggressive man are true, while his victim must furnish proof for her statements? And horror of horrors, what if one of your daughters—or your friend’s daughters ends up married to an abuser? As with the Holocaust, if too many people shrug and turn away, the problem will soon be on everyone’s doorstep and come into their homes. We must not only intervene to stop domestic violence, we must take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place.

But how can we prevent abuse?

First, look at what causes it. We have a nation built on patriarchy, of men making the rules, and still have many who are intent on keeping it that way. Theoretically that should not be a problem—at least not if men are truly intent on the best interests of women and children as much as or more than their own welfare. But not only do humans tend to be selfish, when we have years of pro-male teaching, beliefs and power, combined with disrespect and devaluing of women, laws--whether by government or society--intended to benefit and maintain the power and privilege of men are the outcome.

Second, examine those male vs female beliefs. Is the religious text actually aimed at keeping women in their place, or have you misread it and totally missed that in the culture the directive was given, the intent was to provide for women the next step out of oppression? Have you not noticed how incongruent are the texts for yielding to one another versus interpretation of texts requiring one gender to totally yield so the other can dominate?

Third, educate yourself about domestic violence and abuse and control tactics, and conversely, about healthy supportive relationships. Examine your own behavior. Do you tend to control or manipulate others? Do you tend to be controlled or manipulated by others? If so, take steps toward mutual respect of self and others and influence others toward the same.

Fourth, look for role models who respect both men and women, and for married role models who show what a marriage where both spouses have equal respect and decision-making power looks like. And then develop relationship with them so you can see them in action, learn their attitudes, behaviors and knee-jerk reactions, and copy them.

Fifth, learn to see past the charming exterior of a man, and watch for signs that his partner believes she is less important than her spouse, or that she is brow beaten. (Yes, it is true some women are abusive and the reverse may apply. But at this point it is still primarily women whose lives are in danger. Even if the abuse doesn’t appear to be “that bad” right now, abuse does tend to escalate to physical violence and all too frequently, life-long injury or death for women.)

Sixth, when you think you have spotted an abusive relationship, resist the urge to avoid them and move toward them instead. Work to develop a trusting relationship with the couple, and contact your local shelter or read a book on the subject for ideas how to make a positive difference and be a corrective influence and support in their lives without stooping to controlling them.

Who knows? The life you save may be your daughter’s, or your granddaughter’s, or your son’s.

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