During the Grammy Awards, President Obama appeared in a video in which he prompts musicians to end the violence against women because they have the power to set an example and change others’ viewpoints. He says more than one in five American women have been a victim of rape or attempted rape, and more than one in four American women have been the victim of domestic violence. He claims that it is everyone’s duty to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, and he is absolutely right.
Regardless of gender, nobody should have to deal with domestic violence: physical, verbal, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse. Domestic violence can be subtle, coercive, or blatant. It can start with comments and grow into physical altercations or death. Similar to sexual abuse, it is about asserting power. Domestic violence is not limited to heterosexual relationships; it can happen with any couple or relationship. Violence does not discriminate.
Sometimes victims stay in their situation, not because they want to, but because they feel like they do not have a choice. They feel hopeless and powerless. They believe that their abuser will change. They may not have the financial means or the physical means to leave, or because they’re scared for their children if they do leave, so they stay as protection. Most women’s shelters accept children; however, some only accept boys up to age sixteen or seventeen. One last reason the victims stay is love, but love should not hurt like this.
There have also been cases where women are shamed by their friends, families, or law enforcement officers when survivors tell their stories or escape from their situation. This must stop. Our rhetoric should not include: “Why did you make him angry?” or “What did you do?” This form of thinking should be replaced by: “How can I help you?”
During The Super Bowl this year, the campaign NOMORE ran a commercial in which it portrays a real telephone call to 911 where a woman is being abused and reached out for help, but to do so had to act like she was calling for pizza. The key here is listening. I commend the dispatch that picked up the call and did not write it off as a prank. I commend this commercial for not making abuse humorous which, in Western culture, happens often.
Lenore E. Walker created this chart of what a cycle of domestic abuse can look like.
As you can see, the cycle doesn’t end. The perpetrator claims that it won’t happen again, but a new problem arises, and the cycle works itself out until the next problem. And the next. And the next.
There is no reason a partner should make you feel less than you are worth. Barack Obama is right; it is on us to stop the violence. It is on us to listen when people speak up. Abuse is not funny.