August 26, 2014

Domestic Violence Detective: Are we asking the right questions?

Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in our society. One out of every four women will experience domestic violence during their lifetimes.

South Carolina, my home state, has had quite a bit of buzz about domestic violence. In the latest report by the Violence Policy Center, our state ranked first in number of women killed by men. Since the report was first released, South Carolina has consistently been ranked in the top ten states. It's a sad legacy.

Recently, the Columbia Star, a local media source in our state capital, ran a column asking if we are asking the right questions about domestic violence.

Pamela Jacobs asked:
And after a tragedy like this occurs, comments on stories and social media are filled with questions such as: 
“Why didn’t she leave him?” 
“What did she do to upset him?” 
“Why was she alone with him?” 
These questions are understandable. We’ve all been trained to question and blame the victim, especially in this type of crime. We don’t want to believe that anything like this could happen to us, so we assume there must be something wrong with her.
It's  a concept we've looked at a time or two (if you need some suitable alternative to say in these circumstances, try this post.

So what's wrong with the questions we are asking? We're missing the real questions, the world-changing questions. The ones that have difficult answers--difficult answers that provide meaningful change. Jacobs says:
Of course, that’s not true. Domestic violence can happen to anyone. And at least one in four women will be abused at some point. Not only are these victim-blaming questions not helpful, they distract from the real issue, and the only real questions we should be asking: 
Why would a man feel so entitled he felt justified killing someone he claimed to love?
And how can we stop this from happening again? 
These are difficult, but necessary questions. We live in a society that teaches boys to be powerful and in control. We teach boys and young men the only acceptable emotion is anger. And we fail to teach them how to deal with their emotions in a relationship, especially when the relationship ends. And when these boys grow up, they are often allowed to commit heinous acts of violence against female partners, without ever being held accountable. 
We also teach girls they are responsible for everything that happens to them. So often, victims never reach out for help at all.
These phenomena distract us from exploring the real factors that contribute to domestic violence. They also overlook a simple fact: As human beings, we have the right to a life free from violence, free from others infringing on our bodily autonomy.

No human being should be expected to prevent violence against themselves, committed by another being. It's simply mad to think that people are expected to.

There are many paths that we need to take to improve the protections for victims of abuse in our state. The first, in my opinion, should be doing away with maximum sentencing laws and strengthening bond procedures. It should be taking the offenses seriously.

To wrap things up, Sir Patrick Stewart answers the questions posed in the first quote perfectly. Take a look:

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