My perspective, is that feminists typically blacklist questions that they don’t have answers to. Why do victims of domestic violence stay? There isn’t a nice, neat, blanket response to that. Domestic violence crosses every border imaginable. It is not restricted to race, age, economic status, social status, level of education, (dis)ability, religion, sexual orientation, gender, genetics, blood type, name, rank or serial number. Domestic violence is an equal opportunity social problem. This being the case, how can we possibly answer the question of why? There doesn’t seem to be an answer at the moment.
Feminists can’t fix it, and so they quell the question.
Language control is directly related to thought control. If feminists (or anyone else) can control our language, they can control how our thoughts are perceived by others. This also allows them to control the dialogue which, in turn, helps create the illusion that they have all the answers, simply by eliminating some of the questions. They stifle the flow of discussion and exchange of ideas, under the guise of supporting women and minorities, and more specifically to this topic, victims of domestic violence.
Lottie is right in saying that there is no dominant answer to, "Why did she stay?" but I see that lack of a common answer as being meaningful and educational. This lack of a dominant answer contradicts much of the mythology about domestic violence.
There is much more commonality and meaning in the answer to, "Why did he (or she) abuse or murder someone that person had a relationship with?"
Therefore the only general meaning which can be derived by looking at why victims stay is to examine failed prevention steps and to look at the barriers which prevent domestic violence victims from leaving safely and the barriers to their safety if they don't leave for whatever reason.
With that in mind the better questions would be, "How do we more effectively help victims and potential victims of domestic violence remain safe?" and "How can we more effectively reduce the harm done by abusers?" These questions both involve commitment on the part of the questioner.
It makes sense to begin by getting a broad grasp of the problem. A CDC study found that 23.6 percent of women and 11.5 percent of men have experienced intimate partner violence.
In 2001, intimate partner violence made up 20 percent of violent crime against women. The same year, intimate partners committed three percent of all violent crime against men.
Since the problem of domestic violence is systemic -- and more so against women than men --then much of the solution needs to be systemic as well.
Hennepin County, Minnesota put together a Fatality Review Report "to provide in-depth case reviews of the events and circumstances surrounding domestic homicides to identify responses and strategies to prevent similar tragedies in the future."
Another systemic approach which focuses on child victims of domestic abuse is the National child protection training center in Winona, Minnesota. The idea is simple. Have professionals make mistakes in training rather than on the job. This will help identify abuse sooner and then result in a more effective response.
As Lottie said, language reflects thought. Otherwise requests to reframe our language couldn't be a form of thought control. That means those who hear about murdered anti-violence advocate, Jana Mackey and react by focusing on her decisions are communicating how they think about crimes such as this by their choice of words.
Here is one of the comments which people reacted to as falling into the "Why did she stay?" trap, this one written by Jane:
I don’t understand how someone so involved in the fight against domestic violence ended up in such a dangerous situation herself. I’m sure it’s an extremely complicated answer.
What an extraordinary woman. I just wish I could understand why people–and I think most people do this at some point–afford others the kindness they can’t or won’t extend to themselves.
This comment definitely takes a strictly individual view as it passes judgment on the murdered woman. It isn't my interpretation or oversensitivity which makes me see this.
Here's the claim: A murdered woman couldn't or wouldn't extend kindness to herself by avoiding a dangerous situation.
It's important to note that this comment does not actually ask any questions despite 2 declarations of not understanding the behavior of victims of domestic abuse.
What is a dangerous situation for women? Dating? Marriage? Breaking off a relationship? How wide of a net do we throw when judging the decisions of those who become victims of domestic violence? And what of those who make these same decisions but who never get abused?
If someone has made a bad decision prior to becoming a victim of domestic violence shouldn't we judge all those who make the same bad decisions equally whether or not they are subsequently abused or murdered?
If we don't put the violent at the center of our talk about "Why?" that says that the only thing which can be done is to change the behavior of the abused. But this isn't true. In the Hennepin County study I mentioned earlier in this post they referenced a 2005 change in Minnesota law so that strangulation during domestic abuse became a felony.
Here is a section of a story about Mackey's ex-boyfriend who committed suicide while in police custody because of her murder:
It wasn’t until after [Sally] Piller [owner of a Lawrence gallery where Garcia-Nunez exhibited his paintings] agreed to have a show for Garcia-Nunez’s work earlier this year that she learned about his criminal past. He was sentenced in 2005 on assault and burglary charges, was incarcerated and released on parole in August 2006.
The Lawrence Journal-World reported that prosecutors charged Garcia-Nunez after he assaulted a 29-year-old former girlfriend in her home in 2004. The police report stated he choked and beat her, and then cut her arm with a knife before she was able to flee.
With this history of violence shouldn't those who want to know "Why?" focus on how a man who was sentenced for assault and burglary against an ex-girlfriend could be released the very next year. If the criminal justice system treated his 2004 crime this lightly why should we expect private citizens to view this person as a potential murderer?
From the description of the violence in 2004 that previous victim may have avoided being a murder victim by only a small margin. If the original sentence were in line with the seriousness of the crime he committed in 2004, Garcia-Nunez would still be imprisoned today and Mackey would still be alive.
Where was the criminal justice system's kindness to victims of domestic violence in the handling of Garcia-Nunez's 2004 crime?
Labels: Violence Against Women