It is not politically correct to blame the victims of battering for their fate. To ask: “Why don’t they just leave?” But our society must stop coddling victims by blaming everyone around them.
This blame game takes power from women and forces them to wait. Wait, while cops get more training. While the courts get tougher. While men attend anger-management classes to unclench their fists.
Instead, women - those battered and those not - need to get active in the fight against this epidemic. Women-power is awesome. Women give birth, juggle multiple roles, run countries. What would happen if women channeled their energy to stop the battering? We believe much of it would end.
So women must stop colluding in silence when a family member or a friend is being battered. Get into their bruised face and say: “This is unacceptable!” Name the outrage. Do not allow the victim to diminish the injury, to say it is nothing, really.
If you suspect an acquaintance is being battered, confront her. Ask questions about black eyes. Call the police when the neighbor lady screams. When a friend breaks up with one batterer and chooses another, point out her destructive pattern.
This is not a message urging battered women to stand up in the middle of an argument and say: “I’m not going to take this anymore.” Doing that could be dangerous, even fatal.
The time for action is between batterings. Friends can provide emergency phone numbers, shelter numbers, offer a safe place to flee. Perhaps the 10th, or 100th time, the battered woman will leave. Ultimately, only she has the power.
The system around battered women needs to be strong, too. So women can raise money for shelters, join consortiums that fight family violence, volunteer in the many good programs already in place in our community that provide services for battered women.
We need to reframe the question in the battering debate. Instead of asking “Why don’t they leave?” ask the ones who did leave, “How did you do it?” Those women can become role models for others still stuck in the abuse cycle.
Above all, women must stop whining about how men should change. Some will. Some won’t. There’s no time to wait.
Poet Maya Angelou, speaking at the International Women’s Conference in Seattle last weekend, said it best: “Don’t whine. Do not, under any circumstances, whine. It doesn’t do you any good. And it can do you evil. When you whine, you let a brute know that a victim’s in the neighborhood.”
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