Saturday, June 12, 2010

She is Me

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. THEN THEY CAME for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. THEN THEY CAME for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."

- Pastor Martin Niemoller

I watched with pride recently as one of my clients testified
about the violence she endured from her ex-boyfriend. The defense attorney asked her, "If it was so bad, why didn't you call the police?" A family member had called in this case. With stark honestly my client said, "I really don't know. I think I was ashamed. My neighbors respect me and I didn't want them to know."
Well, that is it. Shame. Embarrassment. Being bad. Being silenced because of her own fear of being found out as a woman unworthy.
I have worked with thousands of women who have been victimized by the person who is supposed to love and cherish her the most. The very shame of that situation is enough to keep them silenced. The majority of them have expressed these thoughts: I didn't tell anyone because I thought it was my fault. He said if I was a better wife, he wouldn't get so mad. He compared me to other women and said they were good mothers and I was not. I believed him. Everyone thought I had a great life and I was too ashamed to acknowledge that I didn't. People like me (fill in the blank - doctor, lawyer, police officer, social worker, psychologist, stay-at-home mom), don't live like this. I thought I was the only one.
Domestic violence is not an equal opportunity crime. It is a gender-based crime. All women ought to be outraged by it. If one women is battered, we are all battered.
Women can beat men. I've seen many cases. And I'm not addressing domestic violence in same sex relationships here in this blog entry. What I'm talking about is the vast majority of domestic violence crime - and it isn't simply one man beating and subjugating one woman. Domestic violence is the ugly operationalization of how women are valued in the world.
I wonder how it is that I have counseled thousands of women and how each one feels alone. Does that mean we are not supporting each other? Are we unable or unwilling to identify when our friends or sisters are in pain? Do we blame them - call her slut, whore, drunk, bad mother, bad wife - when really she is a victim and product of her environment and assigned value?
She is me. She is you. Don't let her or yourself be silenced by shame and fear. If more of us name it , own it, and demand better we can increase safety and value for all women. And, that makes things better for all people.


Empty said...

Very powerful. Reminds me of the line, "none of us are free while one of us is chained."

Carolyn said...

Merry christmas, Happy Kwanza, Great Soltice, Happy New Year, have a great holiday!!!

Anne said...

I found your blog yesterday and have read all your posts. I think it is a great blog, so interesting and inspiring. I hope I can take my blog in a similar direction as yours have gone in:)
Thanks a lot

CJ Social Worker said...

Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words.

I'm afraid I've been very, very bad lately as I haven't written anything in a while.

Anonymous said...

Powerful opening quote. This reminded me of the quote by Lila Watson, too:

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time; but if you are here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

Are you still blogging... I would love to chat backchannel about social work in Texas

Continuing Education for Social Workers said...

agreed. She is me

CJ Social Worker said...

Thanks, ya'll, soooooo much for reading and responding.

Mozart - love the quote - heart of social work.