Posts Tagged partner violence
Here’s a tale of girls having guns pointed at their heads, and still treated like they’re the aggressors.
When I was a freshman, my sister was in eighth grade. There was a boy in two of her periods who would ask her out every single day. (Third and seventh period, if I remember correctly.) All day during third and seventh she would repeatedly tell him no. She didn’t beat around the bush, she didn’t lie and say she was taken—she just said no.
One day, in third period, after being rejected several times, he said; “I have a gun in my locker. If you don’t say yes, I am going to shoot you in seventh.”
She refused again, but right after class she went to the principal’s office and told them what happened. They searched his locker and there was a gun in his backpack.
The boy was arrested, but the girl was left at school with her friends telling her it was her fault the boy brought a gun to school, her fault the school was put in danger, and why couldn’t she just give the kid a chance? She made him lose his temper because she said no so many times. So selfish of her, not to give this kid what he wanted.
Years later, when I was a senior, I was the only girl in my Criminal Justice class. The teacher, who used to be a sergeant in the police force, told us a story of something that had happened to a girl he knew when she was in high school. There was a guy who obviously had a crush on her and he made her uncomfortable. One day he finally gathered up the courage to ask her out, and she said no.
The next day, during an assembly, he pulled a gun on her in front of everyone and threatened to kill her if she didn’t date him.
He was tackled to the ground and the gun was taken from him.
I don’t want to quote too much, but what happens next is…special. All the boys say the girl was to blame for the boy’s actions. The way one kid reasons is:
one boy raised his hand and literally said; “But if someone were to punch me and I punched him back, who is at fault for the fight? He is, not me. It’s self-defence. She started it, so anything that happens to her is in reaction to her actions .It’s simple cause and effect.”
“She started it” by refusing to go out with a boy who made her uncomfortable. Refusing a date is the same as punching someone in the face.
I’ll admit that we’re talking about very young kids here. Their life experience is very limited and they might not yet have the mental sophistication to keep in mind that a boy who’s horrible enough to pull a gun on a girl who says no to him will probably not be a good partner to a girl who says yes. He’s already demonstrated a capacity for violence. That doesn’t bode well for a romantic relationship. But maybe these kids just don’t know enough to think that far ahead! They’re only thinking of their own discomfort, and they’re just looking at what the girl could’ve done to spare them the stress of seeing a gun pulled out at school. Maybe they don’t respond to the news of a woman getting killed by her male partner with “But why didn’t she just leave him??!!”
Even so, they’re already propagating the message that a girl doesn’t have the right to say no to a boy’s advances. They’ve already gotten the idea in their heads that if a boy desires a girl, that desire is important enough to warrant threatening her with serious harm and putting other youngsters in danger. They’re already treating (female) refusal as a provocation to (male) violence.
Not all men are violent. I haven’t yet heard anyone suggest they are! Most boys never go anywhere near bringing a gun to school. Most boys don’t respond with violence when girls turn them down.
And yet, for every boy who threatens to shoot a girl for refusing his advances, there are plenty more young people who think “WHY COULDN’T SHE JUST GIVE HIM A CHANCE?” is a better response than “WHY COULDN’T HE JUST LET HER GO?”
I don’t want to hear any more about why women should stop lying about having boyfriends. I don’t want to hear any more about the evils of giving fake numbers. I don’t want to hear any more finger-pointing about how women aren’t sufficiently direct in telling men they’re not interested. I don’t want to hear any more jabbering that the latest woman to be killed or nearly killed by an abusive partner should have JUST left him earlier. No. I see violent men and boys getting their targets coming and going. She says no at the start, he gets homicidal. She says yes and gets involved, he puts her through months or years of violence. She stays with her abuser, he eventually kills her or drives her to suicide. She leaves, he comes after her. She goes back to him, he keeps on battering her. She refuses to go back, he kills her. No matter what she was up against, somehow she should’ve responded differently.
With that in mind, I am totally done with any discussion of what women might do differently to protect ourselves from violence. I’m done. There are no legitimate critiques of women’s behavior as targets of male violence. If everything we do permits male violence, and everything we do elicits victim-blaming, then all criticisms are meaningless.
I don’t want to hear any more objections of “Not All Men are like that!” You want to be seen as one of the good guys? Then act like a good guy.
Ever notice how pretty much every advocacy organization in this country which includes the word “family” in its name is focused on misogyny, homophobia and racism? If we see it in the plural form, then it might be okay, such as “healthy families” or “women and families,” but in singular, it’s nearly always bad news. Groups like Family Research Council are full of terrible proposals for women and children, and they keep repeating this word “family” to make horribleness sound nice.
The House GOP just passed a reauthorization of VAWA with all the good new stuff taken out.
In past years, VAWA enjoyed bipartisan support and garnered little controversy. This time around, however, top Religious Right groups have rallied against the bill due to the protections it would extend to immigrant, Native American, and LGBT victims of domestic abuse. These groups, including the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, and the Southern Baptist Convention’sEthics and Religious Liberty Commission, made noise on Capitol Hill and are most directly responsible for the events that will unfold in the House today.
And…what do these people have to say? Concerned Women for America took the lead in writing to Senators:
We, the undersigned, representing millions of Americans nationwide, are writing today to oppose the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This nice-sounding bill is deceitful because it destroys the family by obscuring real violence in order to promote the feminist agenda. […]There is no denying the very real problem of violence against women and children. However, the programs promoted in VAWA are harmful for families. VAWA often encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence.Further, this legislation continues to use overly broad definitions of domestic violence. These broad definitions actually squander the resources for victims of actual violence by failing to properly prioritize and assess victims. Victims who can show physical evidence of abuse should be our primary focus.
They use “family” to mean that it’s better for children to grow up watching Daddy beat Mommy to a pulp (and possibly put her in an early grave) than to help Mommy take the kids and get away from Daddy. Such situations often also involve violence on children, but I suppose it would be so much worse for children to grow up without their fathers:
In 1998, Johnson was arrested by the Perrysburg Police, again on domestic violence charges. According to the police report, Johnson provided a “very similar” account of the incident to that his wife Ofelia and 14-year-old son gave police. Both wife and son reported that Johnson had Ofelia Felix-Johnson in a wrist lock, and when the son attempted to stop Johnson from hurting his mother, Johnson put the son in a head lock such that he was “unable to breathe and was choking up food,” according to the police report. After the son broke free, the police report continues, Johnson “put his right hand around [the boy's] throat and pushed [him] against the wall with his back to the wall and choked [the boy] for about 5 seconds.”
Timothy Johnson is one of the people who signed the letter opposing the Senate’s version of VAWA. Yes, I’m sure a convicted wife-batterer and child-batterer would know all about the demise of families.
In a sane world, a phrase like “family values” would bring up a commitment to caring for your kids, loving your partner, being there for your siblings and taking care of your elderly parents and grandparents. In public policy discussions, “family values” should refer to policies that empower people to build and maintain healthy family relations, but there is no room for battering in a healthy family. Part of caring for your kids is not beating up their other parent. Part of caring for your kids is also raising them in an environment in which you, and they, are not subjected to violence.
To say it “destroys the family” to empower battered women to leave their abusers assumes that a family no longer exists if the husband and father is no longer in it. It assumes that upholding a man’s relationship to his wife and children—even if the relationship is a toxic one—is more important than allowing women and children to live without battering. If that’s what “family” means, then, fuck it: I’m promoting the Feminist Agenda. Concerned Women for America can go concern themselves right off a short pier.
Christopher Hitchens has published an essay on Slate in support of French legislation against the burqa. Sullivan hosts reader discussion on the issue here, here and here. Hitchens argues:
To the contrary, they are attempting to lift a ban: a ban on the right of women to choose their own dress, a ban on the right of women to disagree with male and clerical authority, and a ban on the right of all citizens to look one another in the face.
I don’t disagree with Hitchens’s concerns about the rights of those women who wear the burqa in public, or the concerns of anyone else who frames the burqa ban as a women’s rights issue. I agree with their basic contentions that women do not choose to wear the burqa in the same sense that I choose to go to the grocery store in yoga pants and a sloppy t-shirt. These women are living in a different environment. They are required by husbands, parents and other family members to cover themselves, under the threat of violence up to and including death. Even if a woman says she wears the burqa by choice—and she very well may think of it as her own decision—she has made that decision under coercive conditions. It is not very well a free choice to wear the burqa if she can expect to have acid thrown in her face if she doesn’t wear it. The burqa is a way to control women, to remind them that they do not own themselves, that their bodies are not for their own use, that they are subject to different rules from the men in their families, to keep them segregated from non-Muslim culture. It is often used to conceal abuse; no one can tell a husband has beaten his wife if she is not allowed to leave the house without covering her face. I accept all of those premises. I agree that women who cover their faces are not exercising their liberties. I agree that religious liberty does not include a family’s right to force its daughters to hide their faces for religious reasons.
I simply don’t think legislating against the veil is really going to address the problem.
Jezebel shows us a new study on reproductive coercion:
A survey of 1,300 teen girls and young women asked, “Has someone you were dating or going out with ever told you not to use any birth control,” or “said he would leave you if you would not get pregnant,” or “taken off the condom while you were having sex so that you would get pregnant?” Disturbingly, the answer was frequently yes — one in five reported “pregnancy coercion,” while 15% said they’d suffered from “birth control sabotage.” And these were correlated with other types of abuse — 35% of respondents who experienced partner violence experienced pregnancy coercion or birth-control sabotage as well. Says study author Elizabeth Miller, “Not only is reproductive coercion associated with violence from male partners, but when women report experiencing both reproductive coercion and partner violence, the risk for unintended pregnancy increases significantly.”
To which I say: yes, that sounds about right.
The association of pregnancy coercion and partner violence is a really good fit, when you think about it. A baby is a very effective way to keep a woman from leaving a relationship, so it’s understandable that an abusive man would want to make sure to get his girlfriend pregnant. Furthermore, a coerced pregnancy is itself a violent act; any man who would deliberately undermine his girlfriend’s attempts at contraception would have to be approaching the relationship with an abusive attitude. It is entirely unsurprising, as well, that partner violence drives up the risk of unwanted pregnancy; violence is a control mechanism, so it is only to be expected that a man who beats his partner will be more successful in forcing pregnancy on her.
This study does not undo the fact of women who conceive children with unwilling men by sabotaging contraception; that still happens. There is a key difference, however. No matter who pokes holes in the condoms or switches out the birth control pills, it is the woman who experiences the physiological effects of pregnancy and faces the risks inherent in childbirth. A woman who gets pregnant over her partner’s objections is hijacking that man’s independence and time, or at least his paycheck. Beyond child support payments, a man cannot be forced to care for a child. He is free to walk away months before the child is born. A man who forces pregnancy on an unwilling woman is violating her body. Even if she terminates the pregnancy, some damage is still done, and let’s face it: if he can stop her from using contraceptives, he’ll probably be successful in stopping her from aborting. Not to mention that even if the woman is entirely comfortable with the idea of abortion and doesn’t regret the decision to terminate, it will still be an experience she could have done without.
Therefore, we will consider this behavior a warning sign of an abusive relationship. We often tell women to “leave after he hits you the first time,” and that’s sensible (if unrealistic), but it presupposes an overly simple type of violence. Partner violence isn’t just about beatings, it’s about one person owning another’s life. If he says he’ll leave if you don’t get pregnant: leave him first. If he takes off the condom during sex: pack up your shit and LEAVE HIS ASS. That is no way to bring a child into the world.