In the past few years, we have opened our home to several different women (and their children) who have needed ‘refuge’ from their abusive partners. And I’m not talking about the ‘He said my butt looked big in this dress and hurt my feelings...’ kind of abuse. I’m talking about : punches in the face, knocking out teeth, hitting with a steel chair, breaking of bones, abuse of children, bruising, choking, threats to kill/maim/punish, smashing of furniture and property etc.The kind of abuse that has been ongoing for years. All of these women had little or no faith/confidence in the police and legal system to protect them. “He’ll kill me if I go to the police…” Some of them did not want to report their abusers because “I love him…I don’t want him to go to prison…He’s very sorry…He’s going to change…He’s the father of my children…etc” I have reported their abuse to the police and had these women conceal their bruises and deny everything when the police come knocking.
Of these women, only ONE went on to separate from and then divorce her husband, effectively ‘getting out’ of the abusive situation. She has gone on to make a ‘new’ life for herself and her child, having little or no contact with her former partner. The other women went back to their relationships.Are they living happily ever after? In spite of all their attempts to pretend otherwise – their partners are still violent and heavily influenced by alcohol and possible drug abuse. One of the women we have never heard from again and sometimes I wonder if she’s even still alive.
But this is not a post about how awful men can be to the women they “love.” Or how sick and twisted a problem like domestic violence is. How prevalent it is. No. That would be beating a dead horse. This post is about the women who sanction, encourage and enable domestic violence and abuse. The mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers of the abusers and their victims. Because let’s face it, the majority of these men have been raised primarily by WOMEN. Yes, they all go on to make their own choices in adulthood, but what are we doing and saying as mothers/sisters/in-laws/friends etc that adds fuel to that fire of violent stupidity that says “It’s okay for a man to hit his partner.”
Here’s some examples of comments I have heard uttered in complete seriousness when confronted with this issue. All of these made by women.
* “He’s like that because he doesn’t have a son yet. When she finally has a boy then her husband will settle down and treat her better.”
* “I’ve told her so many times that she needs to make sure his food is ready for him when he comes home. He gets angry because he’s worked hard all day and she doesn’t make his dinner.”
* “She nags him all the time. If she just learned how to keep her mouth shut then none of that stuff would happen.”
*”It’s her job. She spends too much time at work and the family suffers. He doesn’t like her job, that’s why he hits her.”
*”Every couple has problems. It’s none of our business how a man treats his wife. We can’t interfere in his family.”
*”My son was never like that before he married her. She makes him so mad.”
* “She’s too weak, that’s why he treats her like that. She doesn’t fight back and stand up for herself. I told him he should have married a stronger woman.”
* “Oh that bruise is nothing.That’s not abuse. I don’t know why you’re complaining. You should see what my husband does to me. And you don’t see me running to the police.”
So to all the mothers, sisters, in-laws, aunts and grandmothers out there – what are you doing and saying about domestic violence? What are you teaching the men in your circle of influence about how to treat the women they love? What messages are you giving to the girls/women in your circle of influence about how they should treat the men they love and how they should expect to be treated?
Domestic violence. It’s not a man problem. It’s everyone’s problem.