I am no expert when it comes to domestic violence but as a general rule I believe that love doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t humiliate, injure, ridicule or damage. In the UK, 45% of women have experienced at least one incident of inter-personal violence in their lifetimes. (Walby and Allen 2004) Across the pond, more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. (US Department of Justice 2007) According to various reports up to 40% of domestic incidents go unreported. Shockingly, these statistics are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Violence against women is at epidemic proportions, which seems at odds with the post feminist age we live in. How can women have come so far educationally and economically without their physical safety being guaranteed? With more prominent women in society, it would make sense that issues affecting women should have more credence than ever before. That is sadly not the case. It would appear that we are becoming numb towards violence against women. Domestic violence was often an act committed behind closed doors, the aggressors too ashamed to promote their crime. That sense of shame or fear of disapproval is alarmingly on the wane.
Much has been said about Chris Brown assaulting Rihanna. I accept that both parties were raised in violent households and that no one other than the former couple knows what happened that night. However, Mr Brown’s use of excessive force against his then girlfriend was and shall ever be despicable and inexcusable. The reason why we are still debating an event which occurred over three years ago is that it shone a light upon male/female dynamics in the Western world. What was brought to light is frightening, twisted and ugly. I do hope that Chris Brown is young enough to learn from this experience and conduct his future relationships in a positive and loving way. That’s what I hope but not what I believe will actually happen. I was shocked at the level of male and female support of Chris Brown and the demonising of Rihanna. She was painted as the mouthy, fiery wench who must have pushed him to his limit. Men are not rabid dogs; they are able to control themselves. This was an open and shut case. Chris Brown behaved violently and unlawfully and was punished. End of story. If students during the Civil Rights tolerated being water hosed, racially abused by police and set upon by dogs what could reasonably provoke a young man to punch, bite and attempt to throw his girlfriend out of a moving car?
The big question is why did Chris Brown receive so much wide spread support? We live in a society which expects the woman to be the victim and the male to be the aggressor. This is why we are so appalled when women abuse their children or kill. It goes against the saintly, passive feminine construct. Similarly with men, there is an expectation for them to be bad at expressing their feelings verbally, to be dominant and prone to violent outbursts. Therefore it stands to reason that men cannot be blamed if they behave violently, if challenged in a verbal argument or dealing with the fallout of a relationship breakdown. They simply do not have the emotional dexterity to be able to express themselves in a non –violent way in their relationships. Women knowing this are therefore to blame for pushing their position in an argument, with their quick minds and sharp tongues provoking the poor emotionally stunted man. When the overly emotional and the overly physical collide, violence is the regrettable but expected outcome. This is a lie. Unfortunately it is a lie which has been spread through every race, class and gender. Too many people genuinely buy into this nonsense and that’s why I doubt that the likes of Chris Brown and his ilk will change. This is no need to. There are plenty of men who will sympathise with his actions and women who will believe that the constant threat of violence is yet another facet of modern love.
Women bear the brunt but domestic violence is a straightjacket which traps us all. I believe that the majority of men want to be loved, to be vulnerable, to protect, to provide, to confide, to be emotionally intimate and held in high esteem by others. They just happen to be the silent majority. Instead society tries to fool us into believing that men are happy being dominant, emotionally stunted cave men. Males are encouraged to cling desperately to a vision of manhood which prevents many from living an emotionally fulfilling life. On the flip side, women are cast as victims who expect the path to true love to be thwarted with obstacles and danger. Men oppress and women are oppressed. The dynamic is always the victor versus the victim. It plays out with White against Black, straight against gay and man against woman. It is this belief system that makes peaceful coexistence a foolish dream as opposed to a reality which we should all strive for.
Politicians are always trying to secure the female vote; after all we are more than half of the electorate. I find it odd that wealthy middle aged White men feel that they have the legitimacy to lecture women about their fertility, abortion or defining what is rape and yet are noticeable silent about domestic violence? In the United Kingdom the average sentencing for ‘Grevious Bodily Harm’ is five to ten years in prison. That is in stark contrast to the whopping 68% of domestic abusers who only receive sentences of less than three months. (Source BBC News) In early 2012 the funding of women’s refuges in Britain was cut by 31%. Women’s bodies, fertility and mothering skills are constantly under scrutiny. However, when it comes to our safety, our esteem and our justice these are topics that no wants to discuss. Why? To bring about change would require all of us to change. To deal with violence against women you have to deal with the root cause, male entitlement to the female form. To change that will be to alter the accepted dynamic between men and women. Until women are truly seen as equals we will always be seen as the second sex.
Please let me know your thoughts