Friday, August 1, 2014

Guest Blogger Chad Leabo Rants about Domestic Violence

Each time I hear about the way society views domestic violence it get’s my blood pressure up. Here in the west we do a lot of finger-wagging at cultures where women are not treated with the respect we think they should be afforded. I’m calling us (the western world) out on that.

Is it worse that girls in Africa are kidnapped for going to school? Yes. Is it worse that, in less-evolved parts of the Islamic world, girls are beaten or killed for going to school or learning to read? Yes. Is it worse that in many cultures, where arranged marriages exist and someone marries for love, ignoring the families’ social contracts, the woman is then killed to protect the family honor? Yes. Is it worse in places where girls are sold into sexual slavery? Yes (though it happens here too). Is it worse in south Asia and the middle-east that a woman can legally be punished for the “crime” of being raped. Absolutely.

However, as bad those places may be--and the treatment of women is abhorrent in those places in my opinion--we have a long, long way to go here as well.

Take the recent murder of a five year old girl in Leavenworth, KS last week. I’ve been following domestic violence (DV) related stories for years now, due to my wife’s job at Hope House. I can spot them in the news with a high degree of accuracy. You can too. When the report came out that a man had allegedly kidnapped a child and was led on a chase and he then allegedly killed the child when police had cornered him. I knew the story. It’s not unusual in cases of DV, especially if the woman is in the process of leaving, for the abuser to take her or even her kids out. That’s the most lethal time, when he thinks she is going to leave. It’s about control. Killing the mother’s kids is the ultimate abuse to a mother. Killing the mother herself is the ultimate control.

Women rarely get murdered. When they do, a vast majority of the time, DV is a factor. Then the victim blaming begins. This is the part that bothers me the most. I try to not read the reader comments on news stories because of the depressing ignorance and vengeance-airing that occurs in such forums. However, as I read that story’s comments I was not surprised by the comments of “why didn’t she leave him?” and, “they should charge her (the mother) too (in the death of the little girl).” In DV nobody every asks, “Why didn’t he stop abusing her?”

In DV situations where a man is abusing a woman, statistically she will leave seven times before actually leaving for good. Like I said, the time when she is leaving is highly dangerous. It’s a time of high lethality. If she has kids, whether they are his or not, she may come back or delay leaving for good because she may figure if she has to take a beating so her kids have a place to live, so be it. That’s sad but kind of admirable in a way. But one must remember that DV is learned behavior. Both parties likely witnessed it growing up. If you see that as part of life, you accept it, right or wrong.

Many people hide behind traditional social norms of the man being in charge. Many hide behind religious beliefs for women being subservient to men. But, when you strip it all away, are those views any less wrong than honor killings (which are backed up for the same reasons)?

Recently the NFL gave Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice a slap on the wrist for knocking his the fiancĂ©e unconscious at an Atlantic City casino. He got a two game suspension. Two games. Had he been busted for steroids he’d have gotten twice that. What does that teach little boys about consequences? What does that teach little girls about their value? She didn’t press charges. Why didn’t she press charges? Remember this is learned behavior. This is part of life for her. Sadly I predict she will be hit again. Will she live in luxury? Yes, not that that matters in the long run. Most women who are survivors of DV do not live that lifestyle.

They live in your neighborhood. They work with you. They go to church with you. They’re in some part of your family. About 50 percent of the human population of planet Earth is carrying XX chromosomes (that means they’re women FYI). One in four of those women will experience some type of DV (emotional, or physical) in her lifetime. Those are your daughters, friends, nieces (my wife and I have five nieces), granddaughters...DV crosses all socio-economic and racial lines. Let us not throw away half of the population.

Breaking the cycle of DV is the most important part of fixing the problem. Boys who witness abuse are more than twice as likely to be abusers. Yet programs, which try to intervene and mitigate the damage done to these young witnesses, are poorly funded and not far-reaching enough. At times it’s like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with rocks.

Shelters are the last resort for victims of DV. Survivors go there after they’ve exhausted all other options, like family and friends. In the KC metro, organizations like Hope House, Rosebrooks, Safehome, etc., also serve as court advocates, and have legal outreach programs too. They help get women out of dangerous situations. It would be awesome if places like those didn’t have to exist. But they do. No court advocate or anyone on their legal team has a day without multiple cases. Not one bed goes unused in the shelter. Ever.

Supporting entities which try to stop or prevent domestic violence is not sexy. The DV shelter in your community is not fancy. It needs money to keep its doors open. Not your cast-off out of date clothes and broken TVs. The well-heeled in your city don’t get giddy over having their name on the building which protects abused humans. The DV shelter in your community is not a warm and fuzzy charity. Domestic violence is a scary, disturbing and sometimes confusing topic. It is real life and death. I sometimes wonder if Sarah McLachlan (who I love) did PSAs which showed women (and men) with broken wrists, bruised faces, and cigarette burned skin if it would help. Probably not. The ignorant would blame the victim again. It takes time to break out of DV relationships. Sometimes people need a little help. Stop blaming the victims and let them become survivors.

Parents it’s up to you. Your kids are little sponges. Teach them respect. Teach them to communicate. Teach them boundaries. Teach them right and wrong. Give your kids good examples. It’s on you. In the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, “…teach your children well.”

Chad Leabo

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