Rihanna and the Blame Game

A ‘Blog 2 Blog’ entry from another blogger  who used to work in a DV shelter – reposted here with her very kind permission.  We hope it helps someone like Rihanna.

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It’s easy for people to point the finger at Rihanna and ask, “Why doesn’t she leave?But the focus in a sane world should be on HIS behavior. Domestic violence kills more women in America than cancer on an annual basis. This is a HUGELY important and neglected issue.

Why do we live in a society where these men feel it’s alright to treat a woman like a piece of property? Why do women who want to leave these situations face public humiliation (real life examples: abusers steal a woman’s diary and publish it online, harass her at work, spread lies about her to her employers, alienate her from family and friends with character assassination, blamegame.jpgetc) and increased danger? In fact, when they leave is the MOST dangerous time for them and the time when more women are murdered by their “partners”. Why is the issue often framed around what is wrong with HER?

Take the Nicole Brown case — no one asked why OJ was on international TV talking about what a “whore” his murdered ex-wife was. Who would behave like that? Why wasn’t the question, “What kind of man would be slandering his ex wife on international TV right after she was murdered?” Instead, the talk was framed around her alleged promiscuity, while his documented promiscuity during their marriage was ignored.

What is wrong with him? That’s the question. Furthermore, what’s wrong with our society? We’re supposed to be a world power and yet we have this dirty secret. Women aren’t safe in this country. Marriage can kill a girl.

The police have proven they can’t protect a woman who gets abused even when she has a criminal restraining order, and yet the courts often advocate taking the children away from the mother when the father is abusive to the entire household, claiming she “failed to protect”. Why isn’t the abuser going to jail and leaving the family in peace?

The problem with restraining order is they’re supposed to make it a crime for this person to be within 500 feet of their victim. Without such an order, police can’t or won’t make an arrest. They “remove” the abuser during their brief visit, and then they leave – the abuser comes back, and attacks the victim. But, restraining orders often amp up the abuser and make him more determined to regain control over his victim.

Part of the core challenge with dealing with domestic violence through the police is that police don’t know whose story to believe when they get called. The woman might have bruises and cuts, but in their mind, she could have put those there herself. Not all police treat the issue that way, but to be fair to them, it’s difficult to determine in personal relationships who is at “fault”. Furthermore, they can’t go arresting people for walking by a victim’s house. Is it just walking, or is it stalking? Hence, the origination of the restraining order, which serves to establish a pattern and gives the police cause to take protective action.

Restraining orders are also not perfect in that the responding police department can choose to ignore them (service issues, etc). I’ve seen this happen over and over again, even with criminal restraining orders ordered by a judge after a conviction of an abuser.

I used to work at a domestic violence shelter, and I’ve seen this up close too many times to be patient about it. It’s the silent killer of women in this country — and people continue to talk about what is wrong with HER. It’s common for talk show hosts, etc to trump out tired ideas that it’s women who were sexually abused who “put up with it”, but in fact, this is not true. You can take any normal person and put them in a long-term abuse situation and watch them crumble. Psychological abuse combined with physical terror takes a toll. Anyone who has the luxury of not understanding PTSD should thank their lucky stars and get off their high horse. I refer to the pundits and the general asshattery of anonymous posters on the internet who have the luxury of imagining themselves impervious to such terror.

The most dangerous time for a woman is when she tries to leave. That is the most lethal time for her. Meanwhile, uninformed people scream out, “Why doesn’t she leave? if she left, she’d be safe!”. When you hear that, you know the person speaking hasn’t seen a woman stalked, even when she moved away. They haven’t met the person whose mother was murdered by the abuser when the victim left him and went to live with her mother. They haven’t met the women whose children were stolen from her by the abuser when she left.

Saying abusers exist because she puts up with it IS blaming the victim.

They exist because this is a patriarchal society, because it is very difficult for law enforcement to act on these charges, because often these men are extremely charming and no one can believe they meant to hurt the woman, because bad people exist who take advantage of those who are physically weaker. They exist because some men feel entitled to have power over the women in their lives and will do anything to maintain it. When you have lived under those conditions, stared down the barrel of your husband’s gun after you tried to leave him and the police don’t come when you call, then tell me that it’s her fault because she didn’t leave.

The only safe way to get out of a really dangerous domestic violence situation is to change your name, move to another state, and stop speaking to your family and friends. I’ve seen this work, however even this gets harder to do with the internet. And many people are not in the financial or emotional situation to pull that off (they have kids, they have no money, etc). Many victims lose their jobs due to workplace problems caused by the batterer (http://www.aidv-usa.com/Statistics.htm ), leaving them even more dependent upon the financial support of the abuser.

The issue all of us should care about is that domestic violence is a leading cause of death for women in this country. This isn’t an issue about self-esteem. Battered women increase their risk for murder when they try to escape. It is estimated (by the FBI) that 52% of female murder victims were killed by a current or former partner.

“Domestic Violence is an infection that has weakened the underpinnings of society’s structure…a contagion that has ravaged the human spirit for generations.” Jane Zeller, Co-director, Silent Witness National Initiative. U.S. Department of Justice Conference: S.T.O.P. Violence Against Women.”

The FBI used to calculate that a woman is beaten in this country every 15 seconds while other institutions said it was every 9 seconds. Domestic violence rates are going through the roof right now with the unemployment rates skyrocketing (one of the factors often involved in domestic violence). According to NOW, In 2005, of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.


DoJ stats

  • Domestic violence is the single most common source of injury to women – it is more common than auto accidents, muggings, and rapes by a stranger combined.
  • 97% of the women killed by another family member were killed by their husband.
  • More than 4,000 women each year are killed by their partners.
  • By age 20, 1 in 3 young women will experience dating violence.

“PRESS RELEASE: NCADV Stands With Rihanna: “She is not responsible for the violence perpetrated against her.

Now as stories circulate about the couple’s reunion, support for Rihanna seems to be waning even more.

This is unacceptable.

The idea that someone “deserves” to be beaten is intolerable and appalling. Choosing to use violence in response to conflict—and we emphasize that violence is a choice—is the sole responsibility of the abuser. Regardless of the circumstances or other factors of the situation, violence and abuse is never an acceptable response. Rihanna, or any other victim of violence, is not responsible for the violence perpetrated against them, plain and simple.

Rihanna’s rumored reunion with Chris Brown does not in any way mean she “wants to be abused.” Reasons for staying in or returning to an abusive relationship are more complex than a statement about the victim’s strength of character. For most of us, the decision to end a relationship is one of the most difficult we will ever make. A battered woman’s emotional ties to her partner may still be strong, supporting her hope that the violence will end. Also, it is extremely common for battered women to return to their abuser multiple times before she leaves for good. Gaining strength, relinquishing hope, or letting go of someone we love is very hard and takes time even when violence is not present. Supporting victims of domestic violence in their process and understanding the dynamics of domestic violence is vital to their success and survival. To learn more about domestic violence, please visit these links:

Domestic Violence Facts
Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?

Men and Domestic Violence
http://www.ncadv.org /

Spread the word.

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