Thursday October 25, 2012

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in every four women will experience domestic violence within her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

Lately there has been a lot in the netosphere and around town about domestic violence. "Stop Violence Against Women" or "Prevent Domestic Violence" are common statements used to bring attention to October which is observed as National Domestic Violence Awareness month. In order to truly commemorate this month and give it the honor it deserves, we should talk about violence against women and what it really means. In other words, in order to truly conceptualize domestic violence in 2012 and beyond, we need to educate ourselves about all of the ways that women have been and are being abused by their partners.

Everyone will remember the Chris Brown and Rihanna debacle in which the entertainer emerged bruised and battered as a result of partner-related violence. While this incident certainly drew attention to the issue due to who was involved, it also reinforced the imagery around domestic violence. The woman with the black eye, busted lip, or other scars that publicly announce that she is being abused. However, from my personal experiences in relationships, with friends, and general observations, domestic violence is no longer symbolized by the black eye. In this town alone, I have been witness to everything from:

-- Women being intimidated in their homes or in public space;

-- The use of words, emails, or other devices to arouse fear or cause discomfort in current/former partners;

-- Girlfriends/wives being kept as prisoners within relationships because they are holding out for hope that it will work wile the other partner is only providing a warm body but no other emotional/physical support.

Similar to the "Rethinking Violence" piece I wrote some time ago, these are just a few of the reasons why we should reconsider the image of the woman who has been affected by domestic violence. Additionally, many of the scenarios I described are not only applicable to women but also men as well. Domestic violence, especially when we encompass emotional/verbal abuses, has no gender, color, or specific face. Some might argue that there is a slippery slope because these various forms of control within relationship are subtle. However, creating a level of fear, intimidating, continually using various devices to cause stress, or using other means to hijack someone's happiness within a relationship is indeed the epitome of violence.

So instead of looking for the black eye upon a face, we should keep in mind that many are wearing these marks upon their psyches. The way I see it, in order to actually take part in putting an end to any of this or stopping it is to start with expanding our definition of domestic violence. We need to go beyond the visual restrictions we hold onto in regards to the victim who suffer this type of abuse. Only then will we be able to be of any service or truly begin to put an end to it.

Shanta Crowley writes from Brattleboro. Read her blog at www.Reformer802.com/realtalk.