Our culture tends to blame the survivors of domestic violence and normalizes violence against women. Singers who denigrate women and video game and movie makers who portray them as objects are rewarded every time someone consumes this “entertainment.” We give a pass to men when they demean women, simply saying, “Boys will be boys!” In order to change this “norm,” all of us need to step up and challenge anyone who speaks or acts in a derogatory manner. It is our responsibility to do so and to raise our children to do so.
How pervasive is domestic violence in Iowa? A “snapshot” shows that 1,274 survivors were assisted in a 24-hour period in Iowa on Sept. 16, 2015. That’s just one day, in Iowa. Of that total, 888 domestic violence survivors (421 children and 467 adults) went to emergency shelters or transitional housing programs while 386 adults and children received non-residential assistance and services, including counseling, legal advocacy, and children’s support groups. Also that day, 336 hotline calls were answered — 14 hotline calls every hour. Twenty-three Iowa programs collected this information for the Domestic Violence Counts Iowa Summary as part of the National Census of Domestic Violence Services. Keep in mind that some survivors of domestic violence don’t seek help — and continue to suffer.
Nationwide, more than one in three women have reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Although it happens much more often to women, men are also survivors of domestic violence. Catholics for Family Peace notes that domestic abuse affects the whole family, including any children.
We have a responsibility, as members of the body of Christ, to become aware of the scourge of domestic violence and to decide what we can do individually and collectively to eradicate it. Mary Macumber-Schmidt, president of Family Resources, notes in an article in this week’s Catholic Messenger that, at its root, domestic violence is about power and control over another individual. Physical abuse is one expression of this control. Another expression is language: demeaning words, phrases, insults, body language, anything that makes an individual feel less valued.
So let’s keep our tongues in check rather than uttering an insult, gossiping about someone or laughing at a crude joke at someone else’s expense. As Christians, we believe that all people are made in the image of Christ. Let’s make sure we see that image.
If someone confides that he or she is the survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, our three-word response should be: “I believe you.” The next step is to help that individual connect with services. Feeling supported and believed is the survivor’s first step toward healing.
We can also be more discerning in our consumption of entertainment and that of our children. Does it promote a message that sexual or domestic violence is OK, normal or even desirable? Take for example Katy Perry and Kanye West’s song, E.T., which hit number 1 on the Hot 100 radio charts a few years back. Perry croons, “Take me, wanna be your victim, ready for abduction,” while Kanye raps back, “See I abducted you, so I tell you what to do.”
If we refrain from purchasing such music or other entertainment that treats women and men as objects, we’re sending a message that denigration of people is not cool or appropriate.
Seeking credible resources in understanding domestic violence is crucial to our awareness campaign. So is recognizing the fact that survivors exist within our circle of family and friends. Each one of us is accountable for helping to create a society that will not tolerate domestic violence and sexual assault.
Here are some credible sources to begin the awareness process:
• Catholics for Family Peace: www.catholicsforfamilypeace.org
• Family Resources: www.famres.org
• Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.icadv.org/services-in-iowa
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org