Posts Tagged ‘domestic abuse’

VAWA and why 2013 is already a lot like 2012

January 7, 2013

In addition to stressing out less and purchasing a cat condo, another big New Year’s resolution is blogging regularly again. And why not? Politicians haven’t resolved to stop screwing over women, so there’s plenty to write about!

While everyone’s focused on falling off the fiscal cliff, I’m worried about the Violence Against Women’s Act non-passage. VAWA has been routinely passed without a hassle since its inception in 1994 (thanks, Joe Biden!), but this year Republicans and Democrats deadlocked on some of the additional provisions. SUBDUE YOUR SHOCK.

VAWA has been really, really, really helpful for survivors of domestic abuse — it helps them find housing in case their residence is compromised by stalking or abuse, provides legal assistance, provides funding for rape crisis centers and hotlines, and works to improve awareness about domestic violence.

So what’s there not to like about a program that educates citizens, law enforcement, and the judicial branch about domestic violence while also providing much needed resources to victims?

One of the criticisms — and pardon me if my brain actually implodes from typing this bullshit nonsense out — is that same-sex couples are not legally recognized by the federal government as couples, so LGBT peoples shouldn’t be covered. Ah, yep, I think my brain melted a little bit because that is just absolutely asinine and illogical — the “w” = women, thought that was pretty clear and inclusive.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) calls it a “side issue” that should be based on how the government decides to categorize same-sex couples. Heaven forbid reality — that same-sex couples can be in abusive relationships — dictate the law so people get help they actually need. 

Also, there’s the proposed law’s expanded jurisdiction to Native American tribes. Rapes among Native American women and the total lack of resources — both legally and socially, in the form of education throughout the community — leave sexual assault scarily as the rule rather than the exception.

Read this article about the topic. It’s troubling that both the DOJ and tribal governments don’t do much to make women feel safe in reporting sexual assault or justice in convicting those who do it.

So… why are we still selectively protecting women’s rights? Just when I’m all excited that birth control is free thanks to Obamacare and Planned Parenthood isn’t going to be erased from the planet by a new president, 2013 serves a swift kick in the ass — and a much-needed reality check that there’s still plenty to be done on the equality front.

But perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope from the last round of elections and all the failed candidates who felt obligated to talk about rape as if it was a blessing/deserved/not that big of a deal. Voters didn’t agree. Voters don’t like violence against women. Maybe it’s time to listen to the constituents?

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RHOC: Domestic abuse, unhappy marriages, excessive cattiness

June 1, 2011

While catching up on Real Housewives of Orange County today, I couldn’t help but notice some interesting themes: victim-blaming concerning domestic abuse, independent women and the institution of marriage, and also some of the women’s comments that make me concerned for humanity in general (I’m looking at you, Gretchen and Alexis).

1. I didn’t see any abuse, so you must be lying

Oh Jeana Keough, I loved you on this show when you were a regular cast member. You seemed down to earth, said funny things, and didn’t fit the typical blond-haired, plastic-surgery-filled mold that many cast members do. But your friendship with Tamra’s ex-husband Simon has shown a new side to you, a side that is all too common when it comes to allegations of domestic abuse: X is my friend, and I haven’t seen him act abusive toward you, so I think you’re lying.

This sentiment rings far too often when it comes to allegations of abuse. Admittedly I started watching halfway into Jeana’s sit-down talk with Tamra so I didn’t see the entire conversation, but they were discussing Tamra’s calling the police and Simon being arrested on a domestic violence charge last September. According to Radar Online, Tamra and Simon shared custody of their dog, and Simon was at the house they shared and when Tamra arrived home, Simon threw a retractable dog leash at her head.

Tamra described it to Jeana a little differently and implied that Simon was in her house, not their house, so the details there are a little hazy (maybe they were better explained in the minutes before I tuned in). But Jeana’s defense of Simon’s actions included the following:

  • Jeana said she hung out with Simon and Tamra a lot when they were married and it didn’t seem like an abusive relationship, so she doubted Simon was actually abusive;
  • Jeana doubted that Tamra actually felt threatened by Simon being in her house;
  • Jeana implied that because Tamra waited until after Simon left to call the police, this somehow makes her story less plausible;
  • Jeana noted that people often throw things to a person and the object isn’t caught, so it’s likely that he simply was tossing the dog leash to her and she didn’t catch it; and
  • Jeana thinks Tamra’s calling the police is a calculated attempt to ruin Simon’s life.

Let me address these things in order. Firstly, not seeing someone physically abuse their partner is not concrete evidence that abuse doesn’t happen. It’s difficult to consider that your friends might have sides to themselves that they don’t show to you, but you can’t assume an accuser is lying simply because you personally didn’t see abuse happen. Abusers — like most criminals — aren’t usually interested in committing their crimes in front of an audience of friends and witnesses.

So when Jeana says she didn’t see it so it didn’t happen, or Bernard-Henri Levy says Dominique Strauss-Kahn is his friend and he doesn’t seem like a rapist, those bits of anecdotal evidence don’t really prove anything except that their respective friends weren’t abusive to them or in front of them. One in four women — 25 percent of women —
experiences domestic violence in her life; I wonder how many of these women’s abusers’ seemed perfectly fine to their friends?

Secondly, Jeana’s idea of abuse follows a stereotypical — and inaccurate — portrayal of how “real abuse” looks. Because Simon didn’t leave a physical mark on her, Jeana assumes that he wasn’t a threat to Tamra. But it’s up to Tamra to determine whether she feels threatened, not Jeana. And does it make more sense to call the police before abuse escalates to the point of serious violent behavior or after? In a perfect scenario, you call the police when a crime happens — when you’re faced with a person who you feel threatened by, you might feel safer waiting (if the person is leaving) so that the phone call doesn’t provoke more violence.

And the most problematic excuse of all? That calling the police can ruin someone’s life. This mentality is one reason a lot of domestic violence goes unreported — you have feelings for the person who is abusive, you care for them, and you don’t want to give them or add to a criminal record. These are often women’s husbands, people they are legally tied to, committed to, living with, the fathers of their children, and having them hauled off in handcuffs and a police car is seen as a very last resort because of these close relationships. Finally calling the cops? That could ruin someone’s life; but then again, so could constant abuse.

Jeana’s defense really pissed me off, because she threw around the classic arguments that merely blame the victims of domestic violence for the abuse they endure. You should’ve called the police sooner, you shouldn’t have acted like everything was fine, XYZ action really isn’t abuse, you’re just trying to tarnish his reputation or ruin his life — all statements commonly thrown at women who accuse men of domestic abuse, and all statements that don’t at all consider the complexity and the danger that comes with abuse.

2. All you women who independent 

Vicki is this show’s independent woman — she is the breadwinner of the family, she works long hours and prides herself on building her own business from the ground up, and she doesn’t rely on her husband Donn for anything. But this independent exterior broke into pieces as she confessed to Tamra that she was convinced she should stay in a loveless, passionless marriage with Donn.

“I believe in my commitment to him as a wife,” Vicki told Tamra. It is a bit surprising that she holds traditional values inside the home when it comes to gender roles, considering how outside the home she doesn’t follow these gender roles. She believes in the institution of marriage (though she has been married once before), and she believes as a woman that she should honor the commitment she made to Donn under any and all circumstances.

She goes so far as to acknowledge to Tamra that continuing her marriage would be out of obligation and not desire. “I can exist in this,” she tells Tamra. “If I have to, I will.” This is what I find so remarkable about the idea of marriage as an institution, and the disdain many people have toward divorce. Everyone gets married with the intent to stay together forever, but the reality is that people change and become incompatible. Or the marriage becomes unhealthy. Or both parties are just miserable. Should people be forced to stay legally bound to each other to satisfy some social institution’s expectations?

Personally, I think not. Divorce is very sad and shouldn’t be taken lightly (I don’t think marriage should be taken lightly, either), but people shouldn’t stay in unhealthy marriages simply because they feel obligated by the pressures of society. Vicki feels that her obligation as a wife is to stay committed to Donn even when they are both unhappy, don’t communicate, and don’t even hug each other. Vicki’s views on marriage are also based on her faith, and I can’t really speak to the religious background of how extensively the Bible promotes marriage and/or condemns divorce.

3. Things people say that make me bang my head against my desk 

Gretchen is sometimes annoying, but she really took the cake when she insisted that Vicki’s absence at Alexis’s fashion show was rude. Oh, by the way, Vicki was being rushed to the hospital because she was hemorrhaging out of somewhere in her body (Tamra implied it was her ass?) and bleeding internally, but Gretchen thought it was “ironic” that Vicki was hospitalized at the exact time of Alexis’s photo shoot.

First of all, “ironic” doesn’t mean “suspiciously coincidental” or “weird” so stop repeatedly saying it’s “ironic” because it’s not. Secondly, shit happens. Thirdly, as someone who does start drama at events that are going peacefully, Gretchen should not be making accusations that Vicki and Tamra are always trying to rain on everybody’s parade. Who’s first inclination when someone is claiming they are hemorrhaging is to think that’s just an elaborate excuse??

Fourthly, Alexis, why on earth are you more concerned with how “rude” it is for someone to keep leaving their seat at your faux fashion show to check on a friend who is in the hospital than that person actually being OK? You are promoting a fashion line that isn’t even out yet and is already being criticized by your guests, and Vicki is potentially bleeding to death. If she wanted to skip your event, I think she would’ve just skipped it instead of claiming she was on the operating table. Gretchen and Alexis: currently making me question humanity.

Teen Mom: Cycles of abuse, custody woes, toxic fighting

September 15, 2010

Last night’s Teen  Mom brought the usual drama — Farrah and her parents, Amber and Gary, Ryan and Maci — but was sprinkled with some happy vibes as Catelynn and Tyler got to talk to Carly on her first birthday, expressing that they were very happy that Carly was happy.

1. Dependency and Domestic Violence

Though Farrah and her mother’s relationship isn’t typically what comes to mind when one hears the phrase “domestic violence” (usually a man/woman come to mind, as in intimate partner violence), it carries all the tell-tale signs of an abusive relationship. Aside from the physical violence, the rollercoaster of emotions and the dependency that draws the abused person back to the relationship are classic and cyclical when it comes to domestic violence.

Farrah’s mom keeps a pull on Farrah by using her financial problems to her advantage, much like a male partner typically can do to an intimate female partner who relies on him for financial support. Farrah is not only working to support herself, Sophia, and get through school, but she also recently lost $3,000 after falling for a scam. This episode, Farrah’s mom offered to let her stay in the rental house across the street for cheap rent, also providing free baby-sitting when necessary.

Farrah acknowledges that her problems with her parents stemmed from them “trying to overcontrol” her, but she is easily lured to the cheap rent and free baby-sitting that goes with living across the street from her mom. This is textbook of an unhealthy, cyclical violent relationship because Farrah’s mom is using Farrah’s financial struggles to create a dependency — Farrah isn’t living near her mom because she wants to, but because it’s financially better.

Jumping back into the relationship is another textbook and unhealthy step in the path of domestic violence. In last week’s episode, after an intense therapy session, Farrah and her mom enjoyed a nice, civil lunch with baby Sophia. Whether because of the show’s editing or not, it seems like Farrah is now ready to jump back into the relationship with her mother right where it left off because of this one good encounter.

This can be dangerous and misleading — in abusive relationships, it’s common for there to be a rollercoaster of highs (there’s repentence, forgiveness, a honeymoon stage of being reunited) and then the subsequent lows (problems come back to the surface, fighting ensues, abuse happens again) because the problems are forgotten or pushed aside instead of addressed and resolved.

Personally, I think Farrah needs to live elsewhere if she can afford it — their relationship can’t honestly be fixed if she is also relying on her mother as landlord and childcare giver, because it’s something the mother holds over her head and can use as a means of control. Also, Farrah has her own issues to work out — like her inability to communicate, her instigating of fights, and her taking everything personally (even the car breaking down).

2. Staying Together for the Baby

I’ve addressed staying together for the sake of the child before when Ryan and Maci were having problems and their parents urged them to make it work for the sake of Bentley. Now, Amber is questioning whether she is settling for Gary because he is Leah’s father. “I’m not 100 percent sure I want to marry him,” Amber said. “I don’t want to live this life of regret. I don’t want to settle.”

Amber was trying on wedding dances, taking dancing lessons, and still she felt like something was wrong. Perhaps it was fueled by the blowout fight they had, but she’s got a point — if you’re not feeling totally committed to someone, should the baby always make you lean toward staying together? “If I didn’t have Leah, we would not be together,” Amber told Gary. Sure you want to try harder to make things work, but Amber and Gary’s relationship at times seems irreversibly toxic and full of resentment.

Kids are always better off in environments where their parents are happy, even if it means their parents being separated — at least having a custody schedule provides stability, which children need, unlike when Gary randomly leaves or gets kicked out of the house after a fight. Though Amber’s friend suggests that Gary is here to stay because he’s Leah’s dad, the old “well he’s always going to be in her life so you mineswell marry him” advice doesn’t make much sense in terms of quality of life and healthy environment for the child as s/he grows up.

Another problem with parents staying together “for the child” is that the child becomes a battleground/tool for the parents dislike of one other. They don’t like each other, and they use the child to get that point across, as Amber did when she told Gary to get his stuff and leave and then told Leah, “Daddy left you again.” You not only bring the child into a fight that’s only about the parents, but you cause emotional damage — if Leah were five and heard that, she wouldn’t know Amber was taking a swipe at Gary or that he got kicked out — she’d think her dad really was abandoning her without reason.

3. Custody, court, and ethical dilemmas

Maci decided that she was going to move to Nashville before Ryan could take her to court for joint custody of  Bentley, hoping to evade the 100-mile radius rule that would prevent her from moving there after Ryan took her to court (Maci currently lives in Chattanooga, 120 miles from Nashville, which would prevent her from moving to Nashville if the court ordered her to remain within 100 miles of Chattanooga).

There’s a dilemma here about how ethical it is that Maci skip town — mostly because she’s doing exactly what Ryan was worried about. Ryan was worried she would skip town and move away without having any ability to stop her, and here she proves just that — who knows if she would have even told Ryan, as he had to pry it out of her that she was moving to Nashville.

Maci seems so worried about Ryan getting joint custody, but I’m not sure why she is freaking out about it. Either she would prefer to have sole custody over Bentley, or she doesn’t want Ryan to have an equal amount of joint custody. It’s completely normal for the father to get some kind of joint custody, even if it’s just weekend visitation — all Ryan wants is something in writing so instead of Maci being the sole arbiter of custody decisions, the court is.

Something tells me Maci doesn’t believe people can change, but though she questions his changing level of involvement in Bentley’s life, she can’t change that he is Bentley’s father and has a right to see Bentley and be a part of his life. In other news, while I disagree with Maci picking up her life and moving to Nashville for Kyle, at least she isn’t moving in with him right away and recognizes the possibility it might not work out.

‘Love the Way You Lie’ doesn’t promote partner violence

August 13, 2010

I’ve been a bit hesitant to throw in my two cents about the Eminem song “Love the Way You Lie” — a song about intimate partner violence — mostly because after reading blogs like this one, this one, and this one (and the corresponding comments), I thought I was being insensitive or missing something because I actually like the song — and lots of people don’t like the song:

[Rihanna]’s singing in that gorgeous voice of hers, and for a moment I think “Maybe this won’t be so bad.” A few seconds later, the recording fails and “I Love The Way You Lie” turns into a rap song. By Eminem. Who is literally the last fucking person I want to hear singing about intimate partner violence.

Garland Grey of Tiger Beatdown is just one of many who find the song and especially the music video disturbing — I can’t speak for the video because I haven’t watched it, but I can speak for the song, which I have listened to many times. And though some people think it’s a self-pitying rant by an abuser and/or a song that promotes staying with an abuser, I think it’s neither — it’s an honest look at intimate partner violence.

Eminem isn’t asking for pity on this track — his lines about being sorry are juxtaposed with lines that threaten his partner because that’s a common cycle of partner violence and likely an honest account of his feelings as an abuser (his physical abuse toward ex-wife Kim is well-known). Do I pity him after hearing this song? No. Can I appreciate that he’s honest about his thought process, deluding himself into thinking he will change, recognizing he shouldn’t be physically abusive, but then doing it anyway? Yes.

Rihanna is being heavily criticized for her part in the song, in which she sings lines like “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/But that’s all right because I like the way it hurts” in the chorus. Rihanna is a survivor of partner violence, leading people like Tricia Romano at The Daily Beast to ask, “WTF is Rihanna thinking?” 

I think, like Eminem, Rihanna’s lines are equally honest. She recognizes how insensitive and hurtful the partner is, but she deludes herself into thinking that she likes the relationship, the partner, and the abuse. Rihanna herself admitted to Diane Sawyer that after Chris Brown physically assaulted her, she briefly reconciled with him — she loved him, she said, but she didn’t want her fans — especially the young ones — to see her go back to him and think it was OK to stay in an abusive relationship because Rihanna had done it.

It’s unfortunately common for women to return to abusive relationships. In fact, researchers at the University of Rochester found that half of women who leave abusive relationships go back to the abusive relationships, on average about five times — so, yes, Rihanna’s lines in the chorus are not direct calls against partner violence, but rather depictions of the real psychological abuse that manifests from abusive relationships.

So maybe I’m still being insensitive and missing something, but of course everyone hates the lyrics. You should hate the lyrics at a superficial level, and if you aren’t fazed or affected by them, that’s a problem. They are the thoughts that breed and continue partner violence, and they are thoughts that overcome both the person abusing and the person being abused, both who — as the song depicts — are cognizant that the relationship isn’t healthy but convince themselves to stay or that things will change.

I’ll agree with critics that the song never explicitly addresses that the partner violence depicted is unhealthy and wrong, which could lead listeners to misinterpret the message; whether this omission is because Eminem, Rihanna, and the others involved thought it would speak for itself as an anthem against partner violence, I don’t know. Personally, I don’t think the song romanticizes or condones partner violence. It’s an honest account that sends the message of how confusing, painful, and cyclical it can be — and we need to talk about those aspects to truly understand intimate partner violence.

As one commenter on Feministing put it:

This song IS pretty fucked up. So is domestic violence … What does it mean if we take these words at nothing but their face value? It was what it was. In Recovery [the name of Eminem’s new album], we tell the truth. Maybe?