• This quote says it all: "If we as a society have any interest in preventing mass shootings -- crimes that seem so senseless, so unpredictable -- we have got to look at domestic violence." [The Stranger]
Supporting survivors of domestic violence should be an easy political issue. And yet! For months, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been derailed by Republican opposition to the bill's plans to expand protections for Native American, LGBT, and immigrant communities.
In our most recent print issue, writer Maya Dusenbery spells out why violence against women is such a crucial issue for the government to address—but why focusing efforts primarily on putting abusers in jail is problematic:
While ostensibly committed to building a "coordinated community response" to violence against women, the law privileges a pro-criminalization strategy. The original legislation was wrapped in the largest crime bill in U.S. history, and more than half of the initial funding was allocated to law-enforcement efforts. This focus means, for example, that U visas are only available to undocumented survivors who are willing to cooperate with a criminal investigation. Critics of the legislation have argued that relying on the state to protect women from violence can be counterproductive, particularly for poor communities of color. As Angela Davis asked in 2000, "Can a state that is thoroughly infused with racism, male dominance, class-bias, and homophobia, and that constructs itself in and through violence act to minimize violence in the lives of women?"
Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,I've been going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for some time now but recently something happened at one that I'd never encountered before: a man admitted to hitting his partner earlier that day.
In both a national and global context where the rates of domestic violence against women are consistently soaring (according to the United Nations Population Fund Report, more 55 percent of women living in India face violence within the home), awareness campaigns and messages which seek to address this particular manifestation of gender-based violence are incredibly pertinent. Calling on women to recognise that they are not alone in what they experience, and highlighting the ways in which this violence manifests itself and affects other facets of a woman's life are key components of such outreach.
"Suffocation is the worst kind of abuse"
"It always starts with the little nicks and cuts"
"Respect the space you really deserve"
"How much longer will you adjust?"
These taglines, part of a far-reaching poster campaign, seem to fit the bill. Or they would, if violence against women were their subject. In fact, they're being used to sell bras.
The pairing of women's suffrage and Prohibition always seemed to me like another quirky historical coupling, an example of the same group of people simultaneously favoring a critical common-sense idea (universal suffrage) and an unbelievably naïve, moralistic solution to society's problems (Prohibition).
"There is no separation between me and what I photograph," said the artist Nan Goldin. This has never been truer than with the self-portrait that captures her injuries caused by an abusive boyfriend. Domestic violence is never an easy subject to talk about, but this image speaks volumes.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the silliness of "True Love Waits"-style campaigns, but it never really occurred to me to think about how a child who has been raped might experience these shaming "abstinence-only" discourses. That is to say, this would be particularly cruel, painful, and potentially traumatic for such a child.
Potentially even worse than teen purity rallies, I think, are the "purity balls."
Consider the opening line of this local news video: "Would you pledge your virginity to your father?"
Americana artist Gillian Welch has always included southern Christian imagery in her work. Though not native to the South, her music is at its most comfortable when it explores the tragedy and violence of working-class survival in the region. Welch and partner David Rawlings write and record sparse songs unlike any others. In part, this has to do with Rawlings' masterful guitar work, but it also stems from Welch's unuusal singing voice.
See "The Way it Goes" from new album, The Harrow and the Harvest (lyrics here):