Tuesday, March 10, 2009

“Turning a person into a thing is almost always the first step in justifying violence against that person.”

"The brutal beating of Rihanna has reignited talk about domestic violence in this country. According to the National Organization for Women, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Disturbingly, even though 1 in 10 teens suffer from dating violence, their reaction to Rihanna's beating is that she deserved it. Campaign for Gender Equality blogs how we can battle this gross misconception in "Breaking the Silence."

Jean Kilbourne, lecturer and keynote speaker focusing on violence, women, and the media.

Chris Brown’s brutal beating of Rihanna reignited talk about domestic violence in this country. That is a good thing! We need to have more honest conversations about this epidemic. The statistics shed some light on the severity of this problem:

Battering is the single most common cause of injury to women in the United States, more common than car accidents, mugging and rape combined. Much to the misconception of many, victims of domestic violence come from all races, classes and ethnic backgrounds. Of all women murdered in the U.S.—an average of three a day—about one-third were killed by an intimate partner. According to the National Organization for Women, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.

I found this recent article by Megan Twohey and Bonnie Miller Rubin disturbing. According to them, 1 in 10 teens suffer from dating violence, yet their reaction to Rihanna’s beating is that she deserved it. What is the answer to this gross misconception? Education. According to Twohey and Rubin:

“In recent years, some schools and youth organizations have started educating teens about the dangers of dating violence. Rhode Island and Virginia have adopted laws requiring such instruction in the public schools. But most states, including Illinois, don't have such a mandate and education on the topic remains in short supply, experts say. Two of three new programs created by the federal Violence Against Women Act in 2005 to address teen dating violence were never funded.”

Not only are we not doing enough to educate youth about domestic violence, but the media (a prime source of information for today’s youth) doesn’t give domestic violence its due coverage. We barely heard anything about the woman in New York who was recently beheaded by her husband after she had filed for a divorce. Where is the outrage? I know it’s not a pretty story, but if we don’t talk about domestic violence, and, more importantly, learn about its roots and causes, we will never eliminate it.

What makes domestic violence and other forms of violence against women so prevalent? What makes men feel they can have power and control over women? The answers to these questions are abundant and complicated, but recently I came across two videos that shed some light:

This one speaks to advertising and the effects it has on women and the value of women.

This one talks about the media and how men learn to treat women.

Campaign for Gender Equality is a non-profit 501c3 organization focused on raising public awareness of the benefits of gender equality, regardless of age, race, class or sexual orientation, through education and advocacy.

We have partnered with Professor Bettina Aptheker, head of Women's Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to promote her "Introduction to Feminisms" course now available in a 17 set DVD. In her DVD titled “Domestic Violence: Strategies for Prevention and Resistance” Aptheker says, “Violence against Women is the magnification of the historical unequal power relations which have lead the domination over and discrimination of women by men to the prevention of women’s full advancement.” Order “Introduction to Feminisms” on DVD.

Battery, whether emotional or physical, is about power and control. From Aptheker’s DVD, here are just some examples of the different types of domestic violence.

  • Emotional – putting her down, making her feel bad about herself, calling her names, making her think that she is crazy.
  • Economic – trying to keep her from getting or keeping a job, making her ask for money, giving her an allowance, or taking her money.
  • Sexual – making her do things against her will, physically attacking the sexual parts of her body, and treating her like a sex object.
  • Using children – using the children to give messages and using visitation as a way to harass.
  • Threats – making and/or carrying out threats to do something physically or emotionally, threatening to take the children, and threats to commit suicide.
  • Using male privilege – treating her like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the master of the house
  • Intimidation – putting her in fear by using looks, actions, gestures, loud voices, smashing things, destroying her property.
  • Isolation – controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, and where she goes.

Perhaps many readers do not experience these confinements, but a great many women in our own country still live this way. These patterns of domestic abuse and domestic violence are all about power and control. To stop the epidemic of violence against women that exists in this country we must break the silence. We must put adequate funding into educating the next generation of girls and boys about violence against women and its root causes. We must have honest conversations about domestic violence and pressure the media to change its portrayal of women as objects.


No comments: