Saturday, November 20, 2010

Helping the Innocent

Right now I'm struggling with an issue that impacts a lot of people, not only in my community but around the world.  I'm talking about domestic violence.  In the United States, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women; one-third of all murdered women are killed by their partner or ex-partner.  The world is not a safe place for women.

What I'm struggling with right now is the fact that I live in a community where domestic violence is a huge problem and yet we have no shelter for victims.  We had a shelter but it has been closed down twice:  the first time when a director embezzled funds; the second time when the board misappropriated funds.  Except for the embezzler, the board membership didn't change between the two closings.  I live in the largest (geographically) county in my state and now, due to lack of appropriate oversight, we have no shelter. 

What really bothers me are the stories I've been hearing.  We have judges who will not allow domestic violence advocates to accompany survivors to court.  We have judges who roll their eyes during proceedings where women plead their cases.  We have a court system that accepts that "this is just the way people around here live."  We have older women who look scornfully upon younger women who stand up for their rights, because the younger women should just "deal with it" they way they did.  We have family members and neighbors who turn a blind eye to the violence and abuse taking place under their noses, because "boys will be boys" and because, anyway, "men are the head of the household."   

We have a system where women who try to better themselves are told to quit their jobs in order to receive government support; or are told they must either quit school (the very vehicle that will lift them out of poverty) or face a reduction in child support.  We have churches that tell women in jail that it is feminism and the women's movement that got them where they are because they were not sufficiently submitting to their husbands.  The feminist movement made them make poor choices.  They neglect to tell them that it is the feminists who brought the issue of domestic violence to light and saved the lives of many women and children; the feminists who helped change the laws so that it is illegal for men to beat and rape women just because they're married.

It's no wonder that many women are afraid to come forward, to accuse their abusers.  It's bad enough that they have to fear their intimate partners, but they also have to fear the very people who are supposed to protect them.

I'm feeling like Martin Luther King, Jr. today as I have a dream that one day women and children will not have to fear the men they live with and can confront abusers with the full support of community.

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