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.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Against Survival Instincts - Prey Protects Predator

"I was the prey who protected the predator at all costs."

"When you insulted him, you insulted me."

- Formerly Battered Women

I believe I have underestimated the power and seduction the batterer has over his partner when he is facing judgment.
I was recently involved in a trial in which a man had several felony charges leveled against him, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a felony weapons charge. He'd been in custody several times before, charged and convicted of violence against other women and strangers. He'd had protective orders filed against him, not only for the victim in his current case, but other women as well. Family Court and CPS had ordered him to stay away from his own children due to his violence. Nothing stopped his violence - not being arrested, no court, no person, no conscience. He used weapons. He forced them to have sex. He beat his partners when they were pregnant. He stalked them when they tried to leave him. He beat and threatened people who tried to help women who left him. He is the very definition of a "serial batterer."
And yet. There they were at the end of the day. Awaiting the jury's verdict. He cried and she comforted him. SHE COMFORTED HIM. As I observed them, I realized all these years, I had severely underestimated the seductive power of this behavior.
This truly evil man who hurts all the people who love him, this predator has the ultimate weapon to reel in his prey. It isn't violence, or threats, or intimidation. It is his willingness to seek protection from her. And she is willing and perhaps even relieved to give it. And - in that moment - they become sealed in a way that no one can break. They become fused as one. No one can intervene. Until, it happens again. Until, he hurts her again. Or, betrays her in some way.