Marcia G. Yerman sums the political issue of domestic violence well in another excellent expose. Three women die a day from a domestic violence related act. Our government is proposing to cut vital protections in the Violence Against Women Act. If it happens to one woman it happens to all of us. Shout out to Marcia Yerman for bringing this issue to the forefront.
Domestic Violence: Everybody’s Issue
Marcia G. Yerman
November 1, 2012
With a range of women’s concerns being pulled into the maelstrom of election cycle rhetoric, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has now become another political football. Originally co-sponsored by Democrat Sen. Joe Biden and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch in 1994, the bill comes up for reauthorization approximately every five years. The Senate has voted to reauthorize the bill. However, the House has put forth its own version—which eliminates aspects that have traditionally included protections covering confidentiality for immigrants, outreach to those in the LGBT community, and improved prosecution of perpetrators against Native American women.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. President Barack Obama issued a Proclamation stating, “Let us renew our efforts to support victims of domestic violence in their time of greatest need, and [to] realize an America where no one lives in fear because they feel unsafe in their own home.”
It is essential to go beyond the statistics to place Domestic Violence within a larger societal framework.
I reached out to Kim Gandy, recently appointed to head the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Gandy has been proactive on this concern for three decades. She observed that the holdup on the VAWA was “unusual for this bill,” but given the contentious environment on Capitol Hill, “not surprising.” She explained, “Services are being delivered, but in the future, they may be in jeopardy.”
“Domestic Violence is something that impacts women, men, and children from every socio-economic group and is a problem shared by the whole society,” Gandy told me. Three victims die per day. “It’s astonishing the number of people who need services,” Gandy said. A piece of that can be attributed to what Gandy qualifies as the “silence around this epidemic, which helps it thrive.” However, on a larger scale she noted, “There is such a prevalence of thought that it is okay to use threats of violence to control other people—if you can.” Gandy underscored what she described as the fertile ground of “sexism as being a part of it.”
The NNEDV describes Domestic Violence as a “pattern of coercive, controlling behavior” that can include abuse in forms including emotional and psychological, sexual, and financial. Victims believe they are to blame, and cannot envision surviving independently. Currently, the downturn in the economy may be an additional factor, as abusers feel frustrated by financial impediments. Women, on the other hand, are hamstrung by fewer opportunities for jobs and housing.
A survivor of abuse with twenty years of experience in the field, Lynn Fairweather, MSW, emphasized that a woman doesn’t have to be beaten to have experienced domestic violence. She wants women to clearly understand that they can qualify for assistance without having experienced physical injury.
Fairweather sees victims as patient, forgiving, and nurturing individuals whose qualities are used against them. In profiling abusers, she views their actions as being cause by “an extreme need for power and control, backed up by a sense of entitlement in obtaining it.” The cause is a conscious choice toward “getting my way.” It is the “threat of physical violence which always over arcs what is happening.”
Often women are unsure of what constitutes a potential abuser, or if they are in a relationship with red flags that could signify concern. Fairweather’s recent book, Stop Signs: Recognizing, Avoiding, and Escaping Abusive Relationships, outlines these warning signs, as well as potential strategies for extricating oneself from a potentially negative or harmful relationship.