One out of every three women*. That's what the research and statistics say. Look to the woman to your right, the woman to your left, yourself. One of the three of you will experience, first-hand, gender-based/power-based violence at some point in your life. And that is simply not okay.
It's no secret that I'm a social worker (I refer you to the blog title itself if you're somehow surprised by that news). But I don't think this is a topic I've ever addressed (here). But a well-meaning comment posted on FB has gotten me on a bit of a rant today.
The comment was in response to some statistic similar to the one I posted above. And a friend said something to the effect that we need to teach our daughters to be alert. And my gut twisted and I immediately felt ill at just that simple - and I know well meaning - point.
So, here's my response, for all of you.
While I understand her point and intention in expressing the need for parents to teach their daughters to not accept violence and to be aware of the warning signs/red flags, I felt sick reading it nonetheless. To me, when we make statements such as these, we further blame women and girls. We set the full - or at least the majority - responsibility of not being abused on their shoulders. We inadvertently join the victim-blaming ranks.
In my opinion, these beliefs also set up an underlying assumption that men should not and/or can not be responsible for their abusive actions. To me, it sounds the same as "if she hadn't done_______, I wouldn't have had to do______ to her". It is not a victim's responsibility not to be abused. It is a perpetrator's responsibility not to be abusive.
Look at it this way. It's not a child's responsibility to not have the crap beaten out of him. It is the parent's responsibility to conduct herself in a safe and loving way so as to make sure the child is safe.
Who would ever say that my nearly 6yo "deserves" to be beaten simply because he continues to tell me "no" and refuses to do what I've asked him, even though he can clearly see it is frustrating me and he continues to do it? If I am getting frustrated, it is my responsibility to deal with my frustrations (be it with deep breathing, a time out for him or me, whatever). It is not his job to "behave himself" simply so I don't lose it. I am responsible for not losing it. I am responsible for my own behavior. Not him.
And yet, we blame women.
And, to be honest, as a mother of boys, I am beyond offended by this belief. For there to be an underlying assumption that my sons, simply because they have penises and Y chromosomes are incapable of controlling their own behaviors, well, that is simply ludicrous. And moreover, it is insulting to all males.
And it's not a belief I'm willing to tolerate.
Let us, instead, teach and show our children to be kind to one another. Let us set THAT expectation. I think in order to really end gender-based violence, we have to reframe the way we view the problem. It is not a women's problem. It is a societal problem. One in which our men - my sons!- need to be as much the solution, as much responsible, as do our women - your daughters.
Stepping off soapbox now.
*Note: Men, of course, are also victims of violence. Statistically, it's much harder to know the actual numbers. But I think it's safe to assume, it's at much lower rates that women. So, for the sake of this post, I will be generally referring to the victim/survivor as "she" and the perpetrator as "he". However, please know that I absolutely do not mean to discount the experiences or importance of men who have also experienced violence.
Today's Lesson: Is the whole big rant up there, in an effort to encourage us all to take a look at the role we play in gender/power-based personal violence. And the role we can and should take in ending it.