Hello, friends…it’s been a while…
The following is a speech I made a year ago, in October 2015, well before this horrible campaign and election. I believe what I said applies even more now. I am less optimistic about changes now as I was when I wrote and presented this speech, but as individuals we have to keep changing our culture of violence. We just do. One on one on one…..
Thank you to all of you for your commitment to Ending Domestic Violence.
I am honored and grateful to be here as we begin Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Arizona.
I am a survivor of a 20-year marriage to a very intelligent psychological abuser. I needed and sought help from many sources, including 6 pastors in 4 states, police in two states, counselors, friends, family, physicians and one advocate. Their counsel ranged from cluelessly dangerous to somewhat helpful.
In 2012, 12 years after leaving my abuser, I came to the office of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and told the advocate, “I can’t think, or make decisions, or trust, or relax, or move forward. I’m frozen. Do you think this might have something to do with Domestic Violence?” I was heard, educated, supported and referred to appropriate help. I am so grateful!
But my story is not what is important tonight. You can Google thousands of stories, images and details about Domestic Violence among millions and more millions of stories, told or untold.
It is the millions, and more millions I want to address.
Because they include you.
One out of 4 women are abused by a partner. One out of 7 men. On Indian reservations the statistics are much higher. Consider just 25% of all women whose stories are reported. Add to that all the women who have not reported their abuse. Add families who watch helplessly, or live on after burying murdered daughters or sisters. Add neighbors who watch and worry. Add First Responders who may risk their lives to investigate, and their families who worry, or who may also have buried someone who was protecting a victim. Add medical personnel who see the trauma in emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and psychiatric settings. Add schools, with too many traumatized kids and missed days. Add employers. Add tireless and dedicated advocates. Add those who see the images on the news and other media. Add yourself. Add everyone else.
We are all victims of Domestic Violence.
We are here tonight to Light Arizona Purple, and say together IT CAN STOP.
But to END Domestic Violence we must address the CAUSE, the machine that continues to produce Abusers and Victims.
This cause is A CULTURE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN – and it is changing.
Programs are changing the culture: Wonderful programs have begun changing how children and youth understand behavior toward one another, how masculinity is defined, how girls and women are portrayed in advertising and media.
Media is changing the culture: NO MORE and other media blitzes are crucial, a counterpoint to much violence in other areas of media. The visibility of, and response to, violence against women via sports and entertainment has attracted attention and stimulated education and mindset change.
Grass-roots Education is changing the culture: in talks, events, and other avenues.
Victim’s services are changing the culture: providing supports and education for recovery, skills and new expectations for life without abuse – for children and adults.
VICTIMS FIND SAFETY AND ARE BELIEVED. PERPETRATORS ARE INCREASINGLY BEING HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
BUT WE NEED TO DO MORE…AND DO IT NOW! WHAT IS MISSING?
Jackson Katz has posed the question that if 3% of men do violence against men, women, and children, violence that women have not been able to stop, what are the 97% of good men, the bystanders, doing?
What I want to point out is that WE ARE ALL BYSTANDERS, as WE ARE ALL VICTIMS.
We are all in this, like it or not.
Let me illustrate. In the past few weeks, I have experienced 3 incidents of males insulting females in social settings.
A man approached my female friend and me at a restaurant. He said the guests sitting near us must be teachers “Because they are women and talk a lot.” Then he made a joke that boy birds have beaks that are closed, but girl birds have beaks that are wide open. We calmly told him he had the wrong audience and we didn’t like his joke. He simply moved away. If enough people don’t like his jokes about women, he might move on to healthier jokes. Our response was easy and private.
A second situation was a hosted dinner-seminar with 10 people who had not met before. During conversation, one man made a remark about compulsive shopping, “you know how women are.” I didn’t laugh, but others chuckled with amusement…or maybe politeness. Later, another man declared, “I’m straight up, honest, you know who I am and what I stand for…not like a woman.” Again laughter…from at least some of the women as well.
This time I didn’t want to risk being rude or creating awkwardness out of respect for the host. We know, consciously or unconsciously, that if I had responded “I don’t like that” to those statements, the group may have seen not the rude men, but me as the source of the ensuing social awkwardness. The silent bystanders were likely “taking the high road” “not making a fuss” or maybe they just agreed with the statements. I might have been thought to be “too politically correct” “no fun,” or “an emotional female.”
I felt much like I did when I considered the backlash for me and to my daughters if I didn’t accept and participate in the abuse in our home. I felt like any victim who has seen anyone turn their gaze away from her abuser to her, and ask what she did to make him mad.
Just as victims of abuse are silenced, either by words and the power behind them – as by the threat of physical pain, or harm to innocent persons, so also – those who reject the culture of gender insult and violence have been silenced, either by words and the power behind them, as by the threat of retaliation in jobs, family or infinitely varied social sanctions.
We are all victims and all bystanders.
These examples seem too mild to address. But this is where Domestic Violence and its supporting social systems start. These statements show a mindset that stereotypes women as foolish, untrustworthy or other negative attributes. Which is low-level social violence. These stereotypes evolve to subconscious truth, then to excuses for disrespect, and finally to justification for abuse.
Domestic Violence is so much easier to combat at this stage, because long before his hand is around her throat, the abuser has already absorbed years of input from his culture about what is acceptable and what is not. He has learned what will be sanctioned or punished, what will be ignored and for what he will be made accountable. Others have taught him who is likely to make him accountable and who will pass it over. He may also have been abused, and internalized that this is the way life is, with no one telling him otherwise.
As a people we are aware of some of the cultural forces within which we operate; most we just accept, or navigate with little effort because we have become desensitized to the harsher tactics as we function within them. As I study word use, cultural bias, and why people believe what they do, I am in awe of how our words define our culture, as they define the way we ourselves think. Our words are tremendously powerful.
So it is up to us to become aware that the little things are not so little. Are we willing to take an honest look at our own bystander awareness and kick it up a notch by defining what we will and will not do to change our Culture of Violence against Women? Are we willing to accept that EVERYONE is affected on all levels by Domestic Violence, and to see all of us as victims and as survivors?
We don’t have to start a fight to challenge this Culture of Violence against Women. We just have to become RE-sensitized to what we are really saying and hearing, choose what we are willing to face up to in order to change our culture, and DO IT.
NOW is the time to stop just talking ABOUT Domestic Violence, and ACT.
Actively learn more. Be aware. Challenge your own stereotypes. Challenge others.
Financially support the agencies and programs that are saving lives and changing minds
We are all victims of Domestic Violence.
We are all bystanders of Domestic Violence.
And, to the extent that we passively condone a culture of Violence against Women, we are also perpetrators of Domestic Violence.
It is for everyone to transform a Culture of Violence.
The time is NOW.
It Can Stop.
End Domestic Violence.