Monthly Archives: August 2010

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

When I first heard Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie”, I was impressed. The lyrics of the song, which depict the cyclical nature of domestic violence, were gripping, raw, and touched me in a way that few songs rarely do. Each verse cycles through the violent argument, the apologetic pleas for forgiveness, and the promises given to the victim to keep her from leaving.  I was pleased to see attention brought to the issue of domestic violence and saw the song as a strong teaching tool… but all that changed once I saw the music video.

I am not surprised at how violent the video for the song turned out to be; that’s not the problem I have. My concern is that the video glamorizes domestic violence instead of showing it as what it really is… a living nightmare. In one scene, the abuser strikes the victim and pushes her against the wall. Rather than show the victim struggling to get away or lying helpless, the couple is then shown transitioning from the fight to the bedroom, kissing passionately as if the violence was a form of foreplay.

Working for a Domestic Violence agency, I have witnessed how difficult it is to escape a violent relationship and understand the long-term effects of such a traumatic situation. While this helps me to identify that the video wrongly romanticizes intimate partner abuse, the majority of people who watch the video don’t have the ability to distinguish between what is reality and what is solely for shock and entertainment value.

Viewers of the video are impressionable teenage kids just beginning to enter the dating world and young adults learning how to form healthy, serious relationships.  The only way that will be possible is if we stop sending them mixed messages. Domestic violence is real. It is not sexy, it is not mysterious, it is not remotely pleasurable. It is painful, it is consuming, and unfortunately many times it is inescapable. While I applaud the attempt of both Eminem and Rihanna to shed light on domestic abuse, I am afraid the video only hurts the cause.

They say that any publicity is good publicity, but in your opinion, is this the kind of attention we want to draw to domestic violence? Should we be thanking Eminem and Rihanna for shining light on the subject, or is their work doing more harm than good?

Arizona Immigration Law Matters to Victims of Domestic Violence

By now most of us know about the new Arizona law that seeks to arrest undocumented persons and establish state charges for “illegal” presence in the state.  This law takes Arizona down a perilous path with implications of racial profiling, lack of constitutionality, and criminal justice intimidation.  One other very important ramification includes how the Latino community responds to crimes committed against individuals in their own neighborhoods. 

Can a person who just witnessed a crime come forward if they believe that they or family members may be arrested for not having “papers”?   This web of racist community destruction becomes even more tangled for undocumented victims of domestic violence.  Chances are that victim will be deported before given an opportunity to apply for independent status and remain here legally.  The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides immigration relief to undocumented victims of domestic violence.  For many, to return to their country of origin means more abuse because laws don’t exist to protect persons who are subjected to violence by an intimate partner.   Their partner returns with them or follows them home and the abuse continues and often escalates.  

 Did anyone think about the consequences for victims of crimes including domestic violence?  Probably not, apparently they didn’t think or care about “unintended” consequences.  Or maybe they did.  Whether the intention was nefarious or not, intent is not as important as impact.  The impact of this law serves to silence a community already marginalized and within that community, the further victimization of battered women who have been silenced by their batterer, sometimes by their community because they went outside of the community for help and now from the very system set up to protect them.  Arizona has taken away the only thread of safety by denying victims access to VAWA relief.  This law may very well short-circuit a victim’s only opportunity for a life without abuse. 

 How many steps backwards must we go before we move forward?  Fighting to just stay in the same place is getting old.  How can we move forward without slipping back.  What do you think?

Mel Gibson’s Abusive Telephone Recordings

I have worked with the issue of domestic violence for 25 years and thought I was immune from the heart-wrenching ache when seeing what one human being can do to another.  I learned I’m not.  Like many, I was drawn to yet sickened by the alleged tape recordings of Mel Gibson’s raging statements to his former partner and mother of his child.  Unfortunately, as distressing as the calls were, I found that nothing he allegedly said or did is unusual for a batterer. Frighteningly, the alleged Gibson rants are typical batterer behavior and reflect a high potential for lethality.  The calls indicate stalking – calling repeatedly, in this case, allegedly 30 times in one day, including in the middle of the night; attempts at sleep deprivation through phone calls; physical violence and threats of physical violence; access to weapons; degradation; and, finally, not-so-subtle threats of death and/or suicide. If we add drug or alcohol use to the mix, we have the perfect set-up for the final tragedy.

Whether the tapes are “doctored” or not, this case brings the issue of domestic violence into full view and begs examination.  Many have also questioned why these tapes have come to the public in the first place; they are, afterall, private conversations. However, as many a victim can attest, the reasons are simple, to have these tapes in the public serves to keep Oksana safe; otherwise, with all of his resources, who would believe that Mel Gibson was capable of such violence?

Domestic violence occurs every day across our county, state and nation.  It even happens repeatedly and in epidemic proportions in teen dating relationships. Why do victims stay in such relationships?  The answers are found in abusive behaviors frequently used by battering partners.  Typically, there’s a dependence on the batterer for living essentials and threats to take away those essential needs, such as housing, financial assistance and the big one:” I will get our child because no one will believe you.” Another typical behavior is repeatedly telling the victim he/she is worthless and cannot support his or herself, which tears at self worth and esteem.  Also typical are attempts to cause severe emotional trauma with statements such as “You are a slut, you dress like a slut, you act like a slut,” and obsessively using vulgar terms and attacking the victim’s personhood and gender. These attacks serve to humiliate and degrade.  The intended effect of these behaviors is to immobilize the partner, and it often works.

These activities behind close doors not only affect the victim and their children, they hurt our entire community.  We spend countless dollars on specialized courts and prosecutors, law enforcement, domestic abuse services, jails, prisons, health care institutions, and even our educational system with children who come to school carrying what they saw.  Let’s take this opportunity to rid our community of this social malady.  If you feel compelled to take action, call Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence at 408-501-7550.  If you identify with the descriptions of these behaviors call 408-279-2962 (24-hour hotline).  Whether you are a victim, a perpetrator or an interested member of our community, a place exists for you in this struggle to end domestic violence.  Just call.

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