Friday, October 30, 2009

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: A Wrap-Up Post for DVAM 2009

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This post is probably going to piss a few people off at first. And a few of them may stay pissed off. Which is too bad, but I'll cope. So here goes.

Domestic violence is not a "women's issue". And trying to label it as one does a disservice to all of the victims. No, I'll amend that. It ill serves everyone.

I'll stand back now and let you throw what you will. Feel better now? Okay. I'll explain.

I wouldn't ever, ever attempt to minimize the impact that the epidemic of domestic violence has on women. (If you've read any of my other posts on this topic, you know that. If you haven't, then I hope you will.) I'm not for a single moment suggesting that women are not abused in DV incidents every minute of every day. I'm not indicting those who label domestic violence a "women's issue" either. We're conditioned to think that way. When we refer to a hypothetical victim, it is almost invariably with feminine pronouns;

"She will be..."

"Her self-esteem is..."

I do it, you do it, we all do it. Even though we give a nodding acknowledgment that not every victim of domestic violence is a woman. But even if that were true, even if every.single.victim of domestic violence ever was a woman, domestic violence would still not be a "women's issue". It would be, it is, an issue that belongs to all of us. Be we man, woman, child, gay, straight, transgendered, black, white or somewhere in the rainbow between we all have a stake in this issue.

There are victims of domestic violence who are men. Anyone who's been around it for any time at all will tell you that. Domestic violence victims are marginalized, isolated, and cut off. Anyone who's been around it for any time at all will tell you that too. And we further isolate them when we - intentionally or not - blame the victims for the abuse. When we ask them why they stay in an abusive relationship, we're suggesting that they aren't "doing as much as they could to help themselves". When we demand that they leave the abuser - and now! - we're issuing an ultimatum. When we make excuses for the abuser, "Oh, it's not as bad as..." or "You could do a lot worse." or "He's just having a bad day/week/month/year." we tell them that they are wrong, that they're not being abused, that "they're over-reacting" or worse, making it up.

That happens with any victim. But when domestic violence is equated with violence against women, we don't just marginalize the male victim. We flatly tell him that he's not a victim because he's not a woman. When we speak of victims using solely feminine pronouns in our discussions of the problem, we invalidate him. He's no longer a "legitimate" victim. At best, he's the outsider in the group of outcasts. Because the "normal" victim, the "typical" victim is a woman. And yet we wonder why only 7% of men responded that they had been abused. Worse, we assume that those 7% represent the only male victims.

Perhaps the problem is that we attempt to classify, to label, to define when all we really need to do is recognize that no one asks -- or deserves -- to be abused. Maybe it's time to throw the terms "domestic" and "gender" and "intimate partner" out of the definition of "violence" and just call it what it is. But this will not happen. So we're stuck working within the paradigm we're given, where we segregate violence into different compartments based on who's getting beaten up.

I just try to remember that a victim is someone who needs to be understood, and needs to be helped in whatever way is possible and safe. And it doesn't matter if that person is male, female or transgendered or none of the above.

They all deserve better.

I hadn't intended to make this a series when I wrote that first post back on Gandhi's birthday. But it seemed that everywhere I went this month I was encountering People Doing Good Things. And those things need to be recognized. They need to be celebrated because they are far too rare. I've been posting a list of "Things To Do For National Domestic Violence Awareness Month" on every post in this series. But none of the items on that list, and only one or two on , are specific to the month of October. The problem continues 365 days a year, it follows that the efforts to combat it must keep the same calendar. A lot of the fervor will die down faster than a Halloween sugar buzz once the calendar has a turkey on it rather than a pumpkin. That's predictable. My hope is that when this November rolls around a few more people are a little bit more aware, a little more educated, a little more inspired. So "officially" I guess this wraps this series for the year. (After all, you can't really tag a post with "Domestic Violence Awareness Month" when… it isn't.) It's been an enlightening and at times inspiring month, and I look forward to the 2010 model being bigger, better, faster yet. Until then, I'll keep the torch lit. I hope you will too.

If you're looking for ways to help, read this article: Carrie's answer to that question has a list of great suggestions, but I'd like to add a couple of things for anyone who has a blog, a website, an account on FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter or some other social network. And it won't cost you a nickel to do any of them.

  • Publish a link to VU on your page/blog:
  • Link to, or better yet, embed the promotional YouTube video:
  • Visit and comment on as many of the survivor stories on VU as possible (new stories are published weekly on Monday and Thursday). Give those courageous enough to speak out the validation and support they deserve. Because for every story that's published, there are hundreds that are still ongoing. And someone somewhere is reading her (or his) life story in the words of another.
And if you need any assistance figuring out how to do any of these, feel free to contact me. (My function with VU is mainly tech support, so if you contact Maggie with a tech question she's gonna send you to me anyway.)

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me said...

As always - you ROCK sir. If I could give you a flamethrower and license to "do what needs to be done" I would...

Mama Zen said...

You raise an excellent point, Mojo. And, you've done a wonderful job of raising awareness of an issue that belongs to all of us.