**DISCLAIMER: THERE MAY BE SENSITIVE MATERIAL THAT SOME DO NOT WANT TO READ. VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED**
Epidemic from dictionary.com is defined as: (of a disease) affecting many persons at the same time, and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.
When we generally think of an “epidemic”-what do we think of? AIDS, cancer, cholera…the plague. There is one epidemic that we as human beings, as a society-and as a world fail to recognize: violence against women.
I currently live in Vermont, and there has been an event in a community within the state that has pushed me to write this post. It is the strangling homicide of a young woman, teacher, mom, daughter, community member, a woman named Melissa Jenkins. No, I did not know her-however I don’t need to.
When untrained eyes view this story, they do not see the links between this murder and domestic violence. However, from reading many articles and hearing information about the case, all of the components are still there. The male perpetrator of the violence, had made advances (gaining power) towards this young woman, which were ultimately turned away(lost control). Somehow, the male’s wife (yes, wife) was also involved in this murder. Was she going along with this act? Was she coerced into killing this woman just as this young woman was coerced out to “help” the couple? My rapid brain asks many questions.
This is an extremely, horrifying event that has occurred-and so many lives have now been affected. Her own child being the most affected. My thoughts are with the community during this time of need. Although not knowing Melissa personally, I have met many women like her.
If you don’t know me personally, then you don’t know my line of work. However, for the past number of years- I have been working in the field of domestic violence as an advocate for women attempting to escape/deal with/understand a life of violence. A common question I hear is, “Wait-there can be domestic violence towards a man by a woman, right???”
My answer is: absolutely. In any relationship where there is a dynamic of power and control exerted by one party over the other party bringing fear to that person-that is domestic violence. I won’t go into more details about what that looks like because that really isn’t the point of my post. However-
statistically, the perpetrators of domestic violence are primarily men perpetrating against women. It gets more complicated when you add the LGBTQ community in, and yes-domestic violence certainly happens in those relationships as well. However- in my years of being an advocate, how many men have I met that I truly can say, they were a “victim” of domestic violence based on my expertise and knowledge? 1.
That is one man, whom I will never forget.
However, how many women have I met that were true victims of domestic violence? Hundreds.
I have heard stories of women being pushed.
I have heard stories of women being isolated from their friends and families.
I have heard stories of women being loved, and then manipulated.
I have heard stories of women being bitten.
I have heard stories of women being beaten with bats.
I have heard stories of women being punched, dragged, kicked.
I have heard stories of women being told what to wear, how much makeup to put on, who to talk to.
I have heard stories of women with weapons held to their face, necks, backs, heads.
I have heard stories of women being chased with cars.
I have heard stories of women being accused by their partner of being cheaters, and then beaten because they denied it.
I have heard stories of women being threatened by their partners: to kill them, to chop them up, to bury them alive, to hurt their children, to kill their pets.
I have heard stories of women’s limbs being broken.
I have heard stories of women being sexually violated.
I have heard stories of women’s “womanly body parts” being ripped off.
I could go on, but I won’t. There is one primary word that is repeated in that montra, “women”. We have a new coming value of equality and making sure that men and women are on equal playing fields-however there has been, and continues to be an epidemic of oppression of women.
I attended a conference in Washington DC about a month ago: The 2nd World Conference of Women’s Shelters. This was an amazing experience. It was where 1600 women from 96 countries around the world, got together in unity to learn from each other, and share with each other stories of pain, victimization, hope and survival. The one thing that was so astounding to me was that this truly was, aglobal issue.
Recently, the government of the United States is having a debate whether or not to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act which is a federal fund that provides financial support to domestic violence agencies, advocates, shelters around the country. VAWA actually provided my salary for a time at my previous job.
The fact that there is even a debate about this, absolutely astounds me. The argument for NOT authorizing it is because it will give illegal immigrants experiencing domestic violence, a way out, it “promotes divorce” and “creates an ideology that all men are guilty and all women are victims.”
Sigh. If there is someone with black and white thinking looking at that? Maybe they will see it that way. However, if you and other advocates like myself do this work (and YES! I also know MALE advocates!!), you will understand that it’s not a generalization- it’s a reality.
My message to the US government is to please, PLEASE, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in order to be able to assist those women who DO live in fear everyday of their lives.
For women reading this post, thank you for your time. Stay strong, and support your fellow sisters in urging lawmakers to reauthorize this bill.
For men reading this post, thank you also for your time. I do not think that all men have the belief system that they feel it is right to be violent towards a woman. In fact, there are many men who do not. However-STAND WITH US! WE NEED YOU IN THIS AS WELL! Hold your brothers accountable for aggregious acts towards women, and stay respectful.
We ALL need to respect each other, regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, gender or ethnicity.
Violence is learned, not innate.