Posts Tagged partner violence
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.