“Act and be heard.”

11 05 2009

There is a great op-ed in today’s Tampa Tribune by Casey Gwinn, founder of the San Diego Family Justice Center and the president of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, about how domestic/relationship violence is a very pertinent problem that does not get the attention and action that it needs.   He says:

After more than 30 years of the modern domestic violence movement, we still struggle for funding, face budget cuts and reductions when the economy goes bad (though domestic violence rises) and rarely are the primary focus of public policymakers in America.

This is absolutely right on point.  Domestic/relationship violence often get sidelined or dismissed as not important enough issues compared to more pressing matters, you know like which female celebrities have gained weight, or which Hollywood starlet is pregnant now.  Given the nature of domestic/relationship violence as intimate crimes where the perpetrators and the victims know each other well and may even love each other, they are often perceived as “private matters” that only concern those directly involved.  People aren’t supposed to intervene in other people’s “private business”.  The point that Gwinn makes is the same point that feminists have been making for years and years now – domestic/relationship violence is something that affects the entire community, not just the victim.

Gwinn goes on to say:

Lately, the news is consumed with coverage of the swine flu, an important public health issue in America. As of Friday, there had been nearly 1,650 confirmed cases in the United States and two deaths.

But there has been little news about the mass killings of more than 60 people across America in the past 50-something days, with men responsible for all the deaths and nearly all the cases involving men with a history of violence against women.

..There have been 13 mass killings in the past two months in the United States. In 12 of the 13, the killer had a history of abuse against women or the cases were directly related to or defined as domestic violence; 22 children and seven police officers were among the dead.

People generally fail to see domestic/relationship violence as a public health issue since it’s just a “private matter” between two people.  So it’s easy to keep talking about swine flu and all the lives it’s claimed recently but it’s perceived as irrelevant to discuss the lives that domestic/relationship violence has taken and continues to take.

Gwinn then lists 14 cases within the past two months in which women and children were killed by men with whom they were intimately involved with.  Interestingly enough, I was unaware of many of the cases he listed even though I read the news pretty much everyday and am especially attuned to news around violence against women.  This raises two issues: 1. the racial and socioeconomic background of the victims – unless the victims are “perfect undeserving victims” (upper/upper-middle class, white), many cases of domestic/relationship violence do not get much coverage, and 2. unless violence reaches the scale of Columbine or Virginia Tech, most violent crimes are only briefly covered and then forgotten about.  As a culture we have a short attention span, even when it comes to monitoring violence.

Gwinn urges us to take action against domestic/relationship violence:

Act and be heard.

So we are not done. We all must redouble our efforts to raise awareness and call for more resources in the war against women and children. We must call it what it is. It is not violence against women. It is most often violence by men against women.

…Don’t be silent. Don’t let elected officials, policymakers, bureaucrats and disinterested community members ignore the tragedy of domestic violence.

We must take guns away from men who are violent and start spending the time, energy and money necessary to stop the pandemic of violence by men against women that is destroying families.

He asks us to rethink our language and reframe domestic/relationship violence as not just “violence against women” but “violence by men against women”.  While I appreciate that this op-ed was written by a man and published in a mainstream newspaper and while most perpetrators of domestic/relationship/sexual violence tend to  be men and most victims tend to be women, it is important to note that women can be perpetrators and men can be victims as well.  All in all though, this op-ed is well written and urges people into action because domestic/relationship violence continues to be an important issue that affects the lives of many people.


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