Newsflash: Not Every Domestic Violence Story Has to Be Commented on By A Man Who Blames Women
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Let’s focus on saving lives, not victim-blaming
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Let’s see what happened in America in just the last week:
— In Maine on Tuesday, a mom put her twin 8-year-old daughters on a bus to school. Her boyfriend, the girls’ father, shot her to death soon afterward. Neighbors said that he had made threats days earlier, and the girls yelled, “Don’t kill our mom!” (Naturally, there are comments on the web blaming the victim for not simply leaving.) And also:
On Monday, in Perryville, Missouri, a woman was killed by her estranged husband in front of her children, the St. Louis Dispatch reports.
On Tuesday, a 63-year-old pastor in the Bronx was charged with murder after allegedly stabbing and running over his “estranged” wife in front of their grandchildren.
Before you think I’m cherry-picking examples, an average of nearly three women per day — a number that FBI murder statistics confirm, and that’s only relationships known to law enforcement — are killed by a current or former male romantic partner in the U.S.
As I’ve written in past stories, that amounts to more than 1,000 women per year, and it’s more than 1,500 if you use a catch-all category of “men they knew.” For comparison’s sake, the number of cases in which men are murdered by female intimate partners or exes is 25 percent of that.
Women shouldn’t have to fear that leaving a relationship will be the last decision they get to make. But it happens over and over.
These women never get to defend themselves in any way; their killers make their last choice.
These women never got any chance to defend themselves.
They come from all parts of the country, socioeconomic groups, ethnicities, and ages, as I found out when I counted news stories of intimate partner killings for just the first week in 2018 and found that 25 very different women were killed by past or present partners across the country over seven days.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time to consider the various proven methods of curtailing such tragedies that have been tried successfully, and how to expand them—by tightening laws that protect victims who are leaving, helping victims get to safe shelter, by encouraging men to get counseling when needed (so they don’t feel it’s un-masculine), teaching young men and women how to accept “no” early in life and how to respect each other in dating. (Experts say they should be taught about domestic violence and abuse as early as middle school.)
Past generations were taught in church and society how to respect each other, although of course women’s roles were more restricted at the time. I don’t know any member of Generation X who was sat down by a parent during their youth and taught about relationship dynamics; do you?
The number of women killed by intimate partners has been steadily increasing.
Yet, what did the president choose to announce to the world on the second day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month a year ago?
“It’s a very scary time for young men in America…”
Re-read the first few paragraphs of this story to see how scary it is for men today.
While false accusations (to which the president’s comment was referring ) can be difficult to defend against, those who are falsely accused have thechance to defend themselves. Hijacking a national conversation meant to save lives is utterly disgusting and only puts domestic violence victims at risk. Instead we should be asking, not just this month by ever month: How could the three women in the first few paragraphs of this story have been saved, helped, protected, supported?
While false accusations can be frustrating, men get a chance to defend themselves.
Being victimized by a false accusation shouldn’t be compared with the tragedy of losing one’s life (both are devastating), but it doesn’t make it a “dangerous” time for men if there’s a possibility of a false accusation. What’s dangerous is sisters, mothers, daughters and grandmothers losing their lives to domestic violence.
Perhaps what’s changing for men today is that they have to consider their actions a bit more than they used to, which certainly may be uncomfortable after decades of controlling almost every situation. When a group is accused of having “privilege” it doesn’t mean they should feel ashamed of it or apologize for it; it means they should acknowledge it so that they adjust how to treat and view those with less of an advantage. Perhaps by considering the legitimate fears women have, we’ll have a better informed generation of men.
Look at men’s horrifying comments on DV stories
One only has to look at the comments at the end of tragic news stories like those in the beginning of this piece to realize that some men still don’t understand the seriousness of domestic violence or why we need women’s activism (whether you call it “feminism” or not) as much today as any other era. It also shows the resentment that exists by some men against an entire gender.
After almost any tragic domestic violence story that makes the news, several men will appear in the comments section to victim-blame by A) Saying their own ex-wife or ex-girlfriends were manipulative, in order to point out how frustrating women can be, or B) Saying women tend to choose “bad boys” and that’s why they end up dead. (Note that “bad boy” — a vague term—could refer to all types of personalities and doesn’t mean women choose someone who’s violent. And many of those who kill actually come off as nice guys at first. The men leaving these comments on tragic stories aren’t exactly the “good guys.”)
Last month, a woman who grew up a few towns from me, a pregnant mother of three, was killed by her husband in Arizona. The two had met when they were young. Instead of discussing the man’s actions, many of the comments after the news story pertained to why the woman dated or stayed with such a man:
These were not all from the same site, or from the same person. In fact, very similar comments pop up in the story about the recent murder of the Maine mother of twins, and in any story about a woman killed by a man she knew:
Besides the “bad boy” comments above, which show the level of resentment for the female gender in society, the other comment I often see on these stories is by a man who complains that women are manipulative too, and cites his exes. I got several comments like that on a domestic violence story (with raw statistics) I wrote on Medium last year, although all three of those comments appear to have since been removed.
Of course there are manipulative people of both genders, and I feel for anyone in pain over such a relationship. But I’m not sure how to feel about men who are so hurt that they actually click on various stories of murdered women to use the comments section to blame them.
Women have been raised for generations to make excuses for, tolerate, and absorb bad behavior on the part of men in order to “compromise” and get along. Not to mention that they’re encouraged to divine the line between “boys will be boys” and those who go too far. They grew up on phrases like “Oh, he doesn’t mean it” and “Relationships are about compromise,” “Don’t be too picky” and “Your standards are too high.” Men aren’t counseled quite as often about making allowances for women. Instead, women are encouraged to be “the chill girl” and tamp down any opinions or strong features of their personality so men will like them better.
Women grow up on phrases like “Oh, he doesn’t mean it” and “Don’t be too picky.”
Perhaps the reason some men (albeit a small subset) would like to continue to blame the victim is because they still want to make all the choices.
The fact is this:
No one deserves to die because of their dating decisions. Nor because they change their minds.
Real men show strength by knowing when to lead and when to listen and learn — not by sheer brutality. Sensitivity to others is what makes (to use an old-fashioned phrase) a “gentleman.” Nowadays there’s a subset of men who’ve derided any man who exhibits a “gentle” side, calling them various names while festishizing violence and brutality. They don’t just hate women; they seem to hate other men even more.
This month, stop blaming the victims. Stop festishizing a lack of tact or sensitivity to others. The men who blame women for being killed aren’t just showing their hatred for women — they often also show their hate for decent, thinking men. No wonder they want to blame feminists for their own shortcomings.