Not Just Black and Blue: The Many Shades of Domestic Violence

-So interesting to look at how you’ve written in the past…

Domestic violence is a serious issue in America. It’s constantly being brought up in the tabloids with celebrities like Faizon Love and Chris Brown committing such offenses. It wasn’t really until the case with O.J. Simpson that the majority of people began to acknowledge the seriousness of such a crime. Movies like “Enough”, starring Jennifer Lopez, serve as a peephole inside the lifestyle of a domestic violence victim. However, what many don’t realize is that the experience of domestic violence is different depending on various factors, such as race and class. Various socialization factors specifically affect women of color in a harmful disproportionate way.

It’s prevalent that people that have not been involved in domestic violence must first understand the dynamics. Domestic violence isn’t just an occurrence that springs upon people. I like to think that it takes many by surprise. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate; its victims come in all shapes, shades, sexual orientation and sizes. Some are men but most are women. Its repercussions may be visible on some people while others hide behind a smile, but many never really see it coming. In revealing some of the telltale signs of an abuser, I hope that I may prevent someone from experiencing this torment in the future.

The Creative Communication’s Group provides a “wheel” that alludes to the characteristics of a potential offender. Violent persons may use intimidation to abuse their victims. They may give evil looks and break objects or hurt animals. Emotional abuse, such as putting someone down, is considered abuse also. Abusers usually isolate their victim from family and friends by monitoring and limiting the victim’s activities. Denial of actual abuse is also something that may occur. Children can be used against the abused in igniting feelings of guilt for destroying a family. Using monetary advantage can also happen to invoke feelings of helplessness. Also, threats of suicide can be used to get a victim to cooperate. These are the most common signs of a potentially violent relationship, but of course there are many others.

Being a victim of domestic violence has allowed me to learn the metaphor of this crime so that I may share it with you. A building storm is the symbol of abuse in relationships. At first, everything seems fine: the sun is shining bright. Then the clouds begin to appear as tension builds and this is the smallest sign of a storm. As the tension continues to build, more and more clouds come in. Next the full out abuse happens: the storm is here. After the storm, the abuser is apologetic and sweet as if nothing ever happened and this is known as the calm after the storm. Sooner or later, another storm will return because this is a vicious cycle.

On top of such setbacks, many believe that these women did something to deserve these circumstances. I can recall my grandmother placing the blame on my mother for ending up in a domestically violent situation. My grandmother voiced that it was because my mom associated with the wrong people, didn’t get an education, and liked getting “beat” on that she was abused. Fast forward to now, as I currently go to counseling for being in an abusive relationship, I have learned that leaving is not so simple.

Many women are trapped in these situations because of various factors. Some women are financially bonded to their partners. If they leave, they escape to nothing: they have no home, no job and no security. This is demonstrated in the movie “Enough” where Jennifer Lopez is forced to change locations, quit her job and alter her and her daughter’s identity. Upon calling a domestic violence hotline, I came to find that my only options were to quit school, leave my job, and live in a shelter. My options were very much the same as Jennifer Lopez’s in “Enough”.

In other situations, women stay because of the children. The nurturing woman doesn’t want to damage the psyche of their offspring, but little do they know that it’s already been damaged if the children have witnessed the abuse. Children who grow up in a violent household tend to grow up and be abused or become abusers. This example is greatly demonstrated in The Reckoning from This Bridge We Call Home. Joy, the victim, stays because of her hope that things will get better and because she is pregnant with his child. She in fact refers to her childhood, during which her mom was abused by her father. I can connect with her in this sense because I, too, grew up in a violent household and went on to become a victim. I never would have thought I would wind up in the same situation, but it creeps up on you. Our relationship lasted for three long years. Another main reason a woman may stay is because they think it will get better, but any counselor will tell you that’s not the case.

To begin, African-American women struggle with being seen as a “victim of circumstance” in domestic violence situations. African-American women have a hard time being seen as victims because of the stereotypes that are placed upon them. For example, many of these victims are seen as being loud and aggressive and people instantly come to the conclusion that they can defend themselves. This is not the case with pop star Rihanna, and I believe that’s because she is well known and liked. In Lisa M. Martinson’s “An Analysis of Racism and Resources for African-American Female Victims of Domestic Violence…” the explanation is given that individuals of this demographic are viewed as the typical “strong black woman” and therefore she has to prove that she is a victim. The white female domestic violence victim, however, is known to be petite and frail and has no issue projecting her image as the victim.

To add further evidence, the television show 48 Hours did a segment on domestic violence and only one of the seven women was of African-American descent. Furthermore, all six women were given the chance to express their stories while the female of color was nameless and only had a picture of her battery as a testimony. The audience was not granted the chance to get to know her through her story and probably lost the chance to emotionally connect with this lady.

Like African-American women, Indian women experience domestic violence differently as well. Joy Harjo provides a look into the Indian life of violence to us in her essay, The Reckoning. Such issues that alter the experience of domestic violence for Indian women vary as much as any other culture’s involvement in domestic violence does. She faces pressure from the standards of other Indian tribe, for example, she tries to gain support from the women’s resource center but she is shunned by the feeling that Indian women with children weren’t welcome. I believe that all too often the Indian community becomes exposed to domestic violence. There is said to be a gene that causes Native Americans to be more susceptible to alcoholism and the American Journal of Natural Genetics backs this statement up. The American Society of Addiction Medicine reveals that when domestic violence occurs there are usually high levels of intoxication involved.

To add on to the African-American and Native-American experience, Hispanic women are no less excused from going through the experience of abuse differently than any other race. In fact, in addition to encountering the circumstances listed in the wheel, Latina women face additional barriers according to a website titled SafeHarbor.  Women of this descent face a language barrier. This can also be an issue in other cultures as well, but the thought of having this barrier, altogether, never crossed my mind. This can prohibit them from seeking help and limits their options for services to turn to. In addition, there are many immigrant victims, whose main worry is getting deported, not ending the violence in their life. Many of these women are not aware of the laws that protect them and 48 percent of this demographic noticed that this violence increased once the woman becomes an immigrant. The final, and perhaps most important, type of barrier is the cultural one. Many Hispanics have a strong sense of family and will go through amazing depth to hold their family together.

Like Hispanic women, Asian women also face many obstacles. The history of Asian people has put women at a disadvantage in violent situations. Many Asian women’s ancestors have been taught that punishment is acceptable because they received corporate punishment. This may be where the acceptance of violence stemmed and branched out from. In addition, many Asian women develop a sense of identity from being attached. For example, they take pride in being a wife and a mother. In addition the woman wants her in-laws to like her and she worries that she may lose their respect if she reports such a matter and brings shame to the family. Needless to say, the language barrier may be another factor.

Like all of the other ethnicities, Caucasian women aren’t excluded from the difficulties that consume the other races. Many people assume that the white household is perfect, the American dream. Caucasian women are known to fall under pressure in trying to live up to these standards. I doing so, they may hide their abuse. Many other women of the same race may judge the victim. Also, Caucasian women don’t want to be categorized with “them”. As mentioned before, violence doesn’t have a preference.

To further expand on the different experiences based on demographics, another perspective that people fail to look at is the homosexual person’s perspective. Some may brush off same-sex violence just because it’s a dispute between the same sexes. In 2002 Arizona has on record on death from same-sex domestic violence while New York has five, and there are just the recorded incidents (many do not get reported). Even more shocking is that, in 2003 and 2004, between 45 percent and 47 percent reported having more than 10 prior domestic violence incidents. Without need for being said, many victims continue to attach to new partners who are also violent. The U.S. Department of Justice also found in a survey that same-sex partners reported more violence in their relationships than did heterosexual couples.

Still, many people today don’t fully understand the impact of domestic violence. Domestic violence affects future generations when children witness this occurring as they grow up and they are become the victim or the aggressor. It also interferes with the workplace as this type of violence causes decreased productivity, absenteeism, turnover and more. The total cost to American companies mounts up to five billion dollars (MINCAA). Moreover, at least one person dies every week from domestic violence.

Common steps to addressing domestic violence include taking legal action, going to a shelter and getting support through counseling. However, I personally know it’s not that easy. Courts can jail a person for only so long and restraining orders can only do so much. I can recall my ex waiting for me outside of my house when he got released from jail and I had a restraining order, when I tried to call the police he just threatened me out of it. Also, when going to a shelter I believe that victims shouldn’t have to sacrifice their lives to get away from violence. Upon calling a hotline I was told to leave work and school and check into a shelter. It’s like punishing the victims for being abused. Instead I think that abusers should be admitted to a rehabilitation facility. Putting these people in a detention facility does nothing but punish them, but they still come out with the same issue. I think that having them in rehab or a wrap-around facility will help.

In addition to developing new solutions, it’s also important to address common misconceptions. Many believe that drugs, alcohol and stress are the main cause of abuse, but these are just factors that go along with it. In short, they are just an excuse to resort to the violence. Others believe that this violence is an issue between a husband and wife but www.domesticviolence.org states that 40-60 percent of children in these households are abused. Moreover, 30 percent of all female murders in 1996 were due to domestic violence. It really is something that affects the whole community.

In all, this research was very educational. There are many differences of the experience of abused based on race, but in class we clarified that such issues are a result of cracks in societal structures that have not yet been addressed. I used to think that I was just another statistic in the case of domestic violence. Now, it is apparent that we are not just victims lumped together in a group. Each and every case is unique. We make up a rainbow in the spectrum of an ongoing violent fairytale and I have developed a deeper appreciation for each demographic that has been abused.

 

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