Posted by: joshjasper | November 18, 2008

I read the news today oh boy!…again.

I promise that every post will not be a recap of the daily newspaper, but I feel compelled to share an article from today’s paper.  A Dubuque man had beaten his wife for nearly 2 weeks and would not allow her to leave the home.  Police reported that the victim had bruises on her legs, redness around her neck two black eyes, and a broken nose.  The article also included this quote:

“He beats me, he beats me,” she told police. She later told an officer, “Jim did this, but I love him and he didn’t mean it. I need Jim.”

It goes without saying that what this woman experienced was the most horrific thing anyone could imagine.  What this woman said in response to what she experienced is a teachable moment for us all.  I think it is fair to say that most people would read her quote and ask the same question…Why does she need him?  Or would she stay in such an abusive relationship?  Although I understand that line of thinking because I have thought that in the past, it is critical to point out that by simply asking those questions of the victim, we immediately shift the focus from the perpetrator to the victim.  Rather than asking ourselves how a person could inflict such violence on another person, we ask how a person could out them in that situation.  And in short, we end up blaming the victim. 

The reasons people stay or return to abusive relationships are many and are individual to the person.  One way to answer the question though would be to put yourself in the shoes of a victim.  Often times the abuser treats the victim as an object.  If I were objectified for a long period of time, I believe my self esteem would be negatively impacted.  I may even question whether or not I could be dependent from this person no matter how bad the abuse got.  Also, if my spouse were to begin abusing me, I think I would initially make every effort I can to better the situation before completely giving up.  I may also have a history of abusive relationships in both my adult life but as a child as well.  I am certain that if I were normalized to such violence, I may not have the motivation or feel that I am better than the treatment I am currently receiving.  Yet another reason I may stay in an abusive relationship is fear.  Maybe I am in a position in the relationship in which I am responsible for taking care of the kids and my spouse is responsible for earning an income.  After years of being in this role, I may find it quite fearful to have to be uprooted from what I know and start a new life by myself.  I also may be afraid of future abuse if I were to leave.  I know from other victims I have spoken to, often times their lives are threatened if they were to leave the relationship.

In short, in order to prevent future violence like this example, we MUST keep the focus on the perpetrator.  Teaching women warning signs, or things to do to remain safe are not preventative efforts.  That is merely risk reduction.  Real prevention will be realized when we change our attitudes and beliefs toward women and begin role modeling for others appropriate behavior that does not involve abusing or degrading women and children.

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