Remiss about Violence

October 11th, 2009

Several recent articles and a blog have served as powerful reminders that governments cannot be discussed without reference to issues of male dominance and violence. These issues overshadow economic, political and cultural factors often cited as the reason why the intolerable should be accepted. Oppression can never be relegated to the level of a mere difference of opinion, a matter of ‘lifestyle’ choice or a ‘practical’ reality. 

First is this column by Charles Blow of the NY Times. Mr. Blow read a blog entry by Tyler Perry, detailing his horrendous childhood experiences at the hands of a drunken father.  Reading the words of this survivor of child abuse made it clear that Perry lost his opportunity to escape his father’s influence because his fleeing mother had been returned to that abusive man, much like the other ‘property’ he’d declared stolen – the family car. Perry was additional baggage, not even separated from his mother during her incarceration while waiting to be ‘claimed’, and a witness to his mother being beaten throughout that endless drive home. 

Being forced to witness abuse is also abuse. Children, by their egocentric natures, feel they are integral parts of the problems surrounding them, requiring tremendous reassurance of their blamelessness. That balm is simply unavailable in the face of overwhelming pathology. This leaves the children of such homes forever marked not just by fear, but the sense of shame and guilt accompanying inaction. That inaction on the part of all who know or suspect abuse extends that helplessness into an all-pervasive characteristic of society.

How convenient for those in authority.
Here was my comment (minor corrections added), posted in reply to the column, “No More Suffering”, by Charles Blow (NY Times, 10/10/09):

13. October 10th, 2009

Mr. Blow,

Law enforcement forced Tyler Perry’s mother to return to her violent husband. Violence against women is a way of life, sanctioned in nearly every society, if not actively endorsed. We have only recently seen an end to foot binding in the last century after billions were abused. Female genital mutilation remains a common occurrence in some cultures even where there has been specific legislation against such practices. Here in the US, with our culture of violence, women plead in vain for protective measures against known and unknown parties. Our own rape shield laws are one example of how pervasively society blames violence upon the violated, pursuing them into the court room on the rare occasions sexual assault cases make it to trial. Such assaults are a crime against society, not just the woman (or man) in question.

The CDC notes that a quarter of women endure partner violence, an overt measure of subjugation which makes no mention of the day to day mental cruelty endured prior to physical brutality. Children growing up in the climate of emotional and physical abuse may learn to accept it as normal and repeat the cycle. Those who manage to avoid passing on that legacy of violence are its only true survivors.

One factor is rarely included in the serious issue of violence being ‘under-reported’. Many victims do not initially consider remaining silent. Law enforcement personnel often refuse to record complaints by women of stalking, harassment and assault (never mind investigating or prosecuting them), automatically consigning them to nuisance calls. From there we move on to the insufficient availability of housing options for abused women and children to escape retribution and the need to endure in silence.

Additional benefits stem from ignoring violence. All of societal ills can then be blamed upon histories of self-reported trauma. It conveniently replaces the need for concrete social services with prescriptions of anti-depressants for adults and children (assuming the parties are insured). It continues to ignore a lack of parity in employment between the genders and access to safe, affordable childcare which can go a long way towards preventing and identifying child abuse.

Thank you for keeping this topic in the public eye but it is largely preventable if its roots in misogyny are recognized.

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