Why doesn’t she leave? Only she knows
I love my feminist sisters and brothers, but they aren’t perfect. Feminists can be power trippers, backstabbers, and my-shit-don’t-stinkers as much as any other segment of the human population.
That said, there are certain ground rules that are accepted when one claims membership in The Feminist Club. They are so mind-numbingly obvious that I feel idiotic even replicating them, but here they are:
Feminists who’ve had abortions are not called “baby-killers.”
Feminists of color are not called racist slurs.
Feminists who are rape survivors are not called “sluts.”
Feminists who are LGBTQ are not called any homophobic insults.
We gird ourselves daily against this disapprobation from the general population, so we should understand that when we are in a feminist space, we will be safe from this kind of garbage.
It follows, then, that this is also a Feminist Club Ground Rule:
Feminists in abusive relationships are not called “weak,” and/or dissed publicly for what they are going through.
Yet it happens, and much more often than you’d think. WHY? Marie De Santos, director of the Women’s Justice Center, an advocacy group in Sonoma County California wrote this in a piece called “Why Doesn’t She Leave?”
There was a time, I admit, when I did think that the first thing an abused woman should do was leave. She should walk out, call the cops, get one of those restraining order thingies that I thought solved everything… but there was also a time when I didn’t think that women could be raped by their boyfriends. I also spent a portion of my life believing in Santa Claus. What happened?
I listened, I learned, I grew the fuck up.
Despite our gut feeling that a woman in an abusive relationship “needs” to leave, she might have good reasons for not going anywhere. Statistics tell us that the victim is actually in the MOST danger when she is in the process of leaving–and 76% of women killed by their abusers had been stalked prior to their murders.
On December 28, 2011, the author, entrepreneur & blogger Penelope Trunk posted a photo of the bruise her husband gave her. Naturally, it went viral. Four days later, she responded: “I’m absolutely shocked by the collective hatred and disdain for women who are in violent relationships….for some reason, people feel it is honorable to rip a woman to shreds if she is living with domestic violence.” She also declared, in no uncertain terms, that she is staying with her husband.
I wouldn’t. But I’m not Penelope Trunk. If I were her friend, though, I’d let her know that she had my support whenever and wherever she needed it. If she showed interest, I’d help her create a detailed and thorough safety plan. Penelope isn’t keeping her abuse a secret, obviously, but other women might want to, so I would be absolutely certain that I didn’t expose my friend’s situation without her permission. After all, the consequences of breaking the silence would be borne by my friend, not me. Reality check: 30% of women homicide victims were killed by their intimate partners.
If you aren’t sure about how to react to a person’s story of domestic violence, don’t judge. Listen. Answers will reveal themselves, one story at a time.
TO LEARN MORE:
IF YOU NEED HELP:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)