May 28, 2023

Violence Against Women Improved?

Thank you Patrick Stewart! While I find the following article comforting and encouraging, the question I pose to readers is “Do you think it is enough?” Is the government really attacking women’s problems with the same ferocity as other minority issues, or is this a bandaid placed over a gaping would? On the other hand, are individuals doing anything or “enough?” I would appreciate hearing your feedback.

“Speaking Out About Violence Against Women”
by Ashley Nelson printed in the, Wednesday 5 June 2013 16.24 EDT

Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart has proved a hero off the screen – by addressing domestic violence with candor and compassion
A remarkable thing happened last week at Comicpalooza in Texas – and it didn’t involve superheroes, at least not imaginary ones. At an event with Patrick Stewart, the actor of Star Trek fame, a young woman named Heather Skye thanked the actor for a speech he gave to Amnesty International in 2009 on violence against women, and then bravely shared that she had been a victim of such violence herself. Courage begets courage and perhaps for this reason, Stewart did not merely accept the praise and move on, but began a lengthy and impassioned personal account of how his father used to beat his mother.
“As a child I heard in my home doctors and ambulance men say, ‘Mrs.Stewart, you must have done something to provoke him. Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make an argument.’ Wrong. Wrong. My mother did nothing to provoke that and even if she had, violence is never, ever a choice that a man should make. Ever.”
Violence against women has made quite a few headlines recently, particularly in the political realm, given the hard-fought re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and also the appalling new Pentagon report showing that sexual assaults in the military are at an all-time high, with an astounding 26,000 assaults in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. The latter rightly received a sharp response from President Obama and has prompted several female senators to demand action, including pushing legislation that would take the choice to try military sexual assault cases out of the hands of commanders and put it into the hands of military prosecutors.
Of late, culture, too, has been preoccupied with this issue. Rihanna’s reconciliation with Chris Brown, who assaulted her in 2009, has ignited debates about what message she is sending to young girls. The Steubenville rape case unveiled in stark terms just how swiftly victims are disregarded. And rape jokes are so common throughout popular culture that they are routinely – and even sometimes smartly – picked apart.
The value of these developments and discussions are variable, though (with the exception of VAWA) they are particularly interesting because they say something striking about how we talk about violence against women – namely, that we talk about it mostly when it involves sex, or a bit of Hollywood glamour, and when can cordon off the behavior. That is, when we put the victims as well as the accused in neatly defined groups – and make them them, in other words, not us.
That’s why the Patrick Stewart video is so moving and important. Granted, Stewart is part of Hollywood, but he’s not exactly a starlet these days. And the focus is not about him – it’s his mum, which is usually how these things go. Although the stories above absolutely deserve attention, when the media sticks to the flashy – some might even argue, titillating – stories, the broader impact of violence against women can get lost.
In truth, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, doing more damage than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. One in four women will be the victims of it; nearly three in four people will personally know someone who is. Thirty percent of women who are murdered are killed by their partners. And, hardly a side note, 50% of men who frequently assault their wives also frequently assault their children.
In addition to bringing the subject “home”, where it lives and breathes, Stewart brought up many other valuable points, including the connection between military and domestic violence, and the need for men to support this issue. But perhaps the most significant moment was when he asked Skye if she was OK. The effect was immediate and illuminating. There was no shame in discussing the matter, no elephant in the room. Just a fact and focus: someone had been hurt wrongly and deeply and was deserving of attention, though, she was just an ordinary person in the crowd – just like your neighbor or your best friend or yourself. It was a brilliant lesson in how to go about this issue. Namely, with directness, honesty and compassion.
One of my proudest moments as a New Yorker came as I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and a man starting yelling at his wife so aggressively that it seemed certain he would hit her. Rather than ignore the situation, a crowd circled around them and silenced the man simply by letting him know they were watching.
Many have said that the success of the gay rights movement is because of the fact that everyone knows at least one gay person. Many, many more people than not know someone who has been a victim of domestic violence. It’s time we let them know we’ve got their backs, too.