Back in the day when I was attending an organized religious institution (Unitarian Universalist), we partnered to help - in some small ways - with the local domestic abuse organization. Here in Asheville it's called Helpmate, but it's called many different things in many towns and cities. We can see what a problem this is in our patriarchy by how many organizations exist. Someone from the organization came to talk to us briefly about domestic abuse, and what I came away with was just how calculated the abuse was. She related one example of a man who designed and implemented a plan to make his wife doubt herself. When she came home, he sneaked out of the house and moved her car. He did this over and over again. After a while, she believed that she was going crazy, that her memories were not true, which all plays into the feeling that she had no value.

In the wake of the blowup of the NFL policies which highlights just how abuse of women has been trivialized in our country, we, of course, look at Janay Palmer. How could she have married him after being abused by him? I don't know Ms. Palmer Rice, so I have no idea. I do know how abusers operate.

They are charming. The attention they give women at the beginning of a relationship seems like the good part of a fairy tale. And the women don't realize that in all this charm, the abusers are isolating them from their family and friends. And at a time when women are in a vulnerable situation, the abusers introduce a threat and wait to see how women will react. It's a power trip for the abusers, and they have their wiles to both cajole and retain control over the situation. Some abusers wait until they are on their honeymoon to beat their new wives. They believe that when they do this, the rest of the marriage is a walk in the park - wives will never "get out of line"  with that threat hanging over them.

So why don't women leave?

In our Helpmate talk we were told that women will leave an abusive situation several times before leaving it for good. The reasons are many, but mostly it's about survival. Can she get away without him coming after her? Will he finally kill her like he's been promising? One of the first homicides I transcribed when I worked at the police department was just such a case. When the husband confessed, he was asked if she was still alive when he left her. He said she was "still gurgling". The friend she was with, whom he left for dead, did survive. The fact is that 70% of domestic abuse homicide is after the victim has left the situation.

And then there are the children, the animals, the paycheck that kept them from living on the streets. When a woman is made to feel less than, leaving a situation is herculean. A good resource to read is by Hilary Bok who writes for Vox. She worked for a time in a domestic abuse shelter, and still, with all her knowledge of how abuse works, she found herself in an abusive situation.

The sad fact is, we all know women who have been abused, whether we know their situation or not. I discovered just a few years ago that one of my second cousins had been in an abusive marriage for several decades and never told a soul until some years after her husband died. Like rape, there is a stigma of shame associated with abuse. Why? Because we live amid the patriarchy.

So what can we do to change our society and to eliminate abuse?

1) Stop blaming the victim in any way or fashion. If she goes back to the abuser after having left him, trust that she has good reason to do this.

2) Be known as an advocate for women in abusive situations. Be supportive. Research resources for women and their children. And listen to them.

3) Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and tell them that eliminating domestic abuse is a priority. This needs to be shown through both the penalties for engaging in this, and the programs available to women.

4) Encourage more media attention to get the word out that abuse is wrong, is abnormal to any relationship, and then shame the abuse.

5) Educate our children in school about abuse. Children who come from abusive homes are prepped to live abusive lives.

Ever wonder where the term "rule of thumb" came from? It was the width of a stick legally prescribed in which a husband could beat his wife.  We've come a-ways from this, but we still have much further to go.

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    Renee has been around the block a few times and has some opinions on how we interact with each other. She's bringing over the blog posts from My Peace of the Earth, and will be adding more.


    December 2015
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