October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Domestic violence has finally become a lead story in the media. The scourge of women being beaten abused and murdered by men who purportedly love them has crossed the barriers of race, income, celebrity and marital status. Professional athletes, famous singers, actors, judges and average folk have made headlines with tales of vicious beatings and death. This scourge, sadly, has been on the rise and has become more violent and deadly.
Why are women being targeted? Why does fear keep women in abusive relationships? Is it the fear of losing financial support? Is it the fear of retribution or murder if they seek help? Is it the fear of being stigmatized by society? Are women so demoralized and feeling so inferior that they put up with abuse? Do they feel “owned” by their significant other or spouse? Do they feel unworthy of a healthy relationship? Is it their religious belief in “until death us do part” that prevents them from acting? The wedding vows used to have the promise to “obey.” Are women frightened into submission by threats and abuse to their children, family and/or pets? Are they lacking in a family support system? Are they afraid that no one would believe that such a “nice guy” would hurt them? Is it because the only legal recourse involves a piece of paper, a “protection (restraining) order” that offers little protection when someone has the mindset to do harm?
Do they fear that they will be murdered if they leave? All of the above?
My opinion is that we have become a society that went from women’s rights and equality to one where men are in charge and where women are expected to be subservient. So many evangelical churches preach that women must do everything their husbands’ request, no matter how isolating and hurtful. Young women are programmed to have a man in her life at all costs. To secure one, she must have breasts larger than her I.Q. (the top gift for high school graduation are young women requesting breast enlargement) and resemble a Barbie doll. Hollywood and celebrity flaunt beautiful young woman as the perfect mate for successful, famous and wealthy men. The ideal of success is beauty and not brains these days. Thus, women have become chattel. Young women are willingly forfeiting their rights for “love.”
As an author, I view novels as a barometer of society. In the 1980’s, romance novels had the moniker “bodice ripper” because the hero raped the woman and the experience was so exciting that she fell in love with him. Sad, sick and true that women read those novels! After, women were portrayed as independent, not needing a man but wanting one. Now, thanks to the success of “Fifty Shades of Gray,” erotica has become the popular genre. No longer under covers, it’s out in public. The genre has been around a long time and there are some quality novels in the genre with women portrayed as strong and independent. Women ask for and consent to what they want and how far they are willing to go. However, I do not view “Fifty Shades” as a novel of empowerment. Though it has brought the genre to the forefront, I see it as demeaning it. I see it as a novel that condones psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I know that many people will disagree. So many men and women love the trilogy and see it as a tale of redemption. Sorry, I do not. To me, it perpetuates the idea that abuse is okay if the man is wealthy, successful, famous and suffers from an abusive past. When an overly naïve heroine agrees to abuse because a man is wealthy, handsome and is great arm candy, something is wrong. A woman who reluctantly agrees to forms of sex and abuse for a new car, apartment, personal trainer and a relationship, something is seriously wrong. It teaches young woman that it’s okay to agree to sex acts and undergo pain if the man is handsome, rich and gifts you accordingly.
What adults decide to do behind their bedroom door is their business if BDSM is consentual. In most erotica, it is. In this novel, the young woman has her doubts and concerns. She seems focused on the man’s looks and money and is willing to do whatever it takes to land him as a boyfriend. She even agrees to a sexual contract. A body for hire? Is a written sex contract a sign of love? Not to me. When I read a section where the heroine cannot sit down at a family event because of her pain from whipping during a sexual escapade, I cringed. This is not love in my book. The man beats her raw. This is abuse.
Oh, it’s just fiction, I’m told. Excuse me, fiction is an exaggeration of real life but should not condone physical pain disguised as love.
The so-called “hero” is redeemed at the end and becomes a loving husband and father. How “happily ever after.” In real life, one really can’t change a leopard’s spots. Abusive people do not change and, if they do, why would someone have the patience and endurance to tolerate the pain waiting? I wouldn’t tolerate a man’s abuse in hopes of his changing.
Okay, why am I dissing this book? To make a point. It sends the wrong message to women and to a society that accepts it.
Are we going backward in time when rape victims were condemned because “they asked for it?” Are women now being chastised for undergoing abuse because “they asked for it” as well? We live in a society that readily accepts psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. To many women, the possessiveness, control, authority and power, disguised as love, is acceptable. If the man is good looking, successful, is a good provider and a great lover, being degraded, emotionally torn apart, kept a prisoner in one’s home, being dictated to and even beaten is a fair tradeoff.
I have known women who have been abused and stayed.
One woman had a husband who locked her in their home went he went to work. She was only permitted out with him, to get groceries, shop, visit relatives. There were no friends, no independence or personal freedom. She truly thought that he loved her because he was so jealous with the fear that another man might hit on her if she dared to be in public. She was proud because he wanted to protect her. Excuse me?
Another woman belonged to an evangelical church that preached that a wife had to obey her husband, no questions asked. While he sat at home, she was “made” to work two jobs to pay the bills. She was not “permitted” to have or visit with friends. He took her shopping and dictated what she cooked. He determined where they went and who they visited. As a “good” wife, she obeyed. This is not in the 1950’s but now!
Women can also be the abuser. A friend was married to a woman who tried to run him over with her car, among other deeds. He lived in fear for his life until he was granted a divorce and moved out of state. I had a co-worker who was engaged to a girl who had her family and friends spy on him. He was not allowed to talk to female coworkers, go to lunch in mixed company, talk to receptionists or clients who were women or drive with a woman. He thought that she adored him!
You read the papers about women who are murdered because they dared to file for divorce from an abusive spouse. His words, “If I can’t have you, no one will” was a real threat. Women deny abuse for fear of retribution. They fear for their lives and rightfully so.
I think of Tina Turner who lived with an abuser because he made her famous. If it could happen to her, it can happen to anyone.
Young women should be taught to love themselves first. Contrary to the movies, a woman does not need a man to complete her. A man should complement her.
Men should be taught to respect women and view them as a whole person and not only as a body and sex object or boy toy.
Violence has no place in a relationship. Period.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse one person uses to maintain power and control over another in a relationship.” (Domestic Violence center, Cleveland, Ohio)
Abuse can include:
-Emotional and verbal control
*** Domestic abuse is not just relegated to a marriage, but to dating, cohabitation, including between roommates of all genders, the elderly, children etc. Abusers often harm beloved pets and children to keep control.
The Domestic Violence Center in Cleveland, Ohio:
Call for help 216.391.HELP (4357) (24 hours)
If undergoing abuse:
-Talk to someone
-Prepare a safety plan
-Join a support group
-Call the Domestic Violence Helpline!
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!