intimate partner violence

My Friend is Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence, How Can I Help?

cryingThis post is a Battered Women’s Support Services publication, originally posted at the Ending Violence blog. Cross-posted with permission.

When our friend, family member, loved one is living with abuse by an intimate partner, we have a key role in supporting their journey.

You may be the only person that they can trust.  Please read on for tips and tools and become an empowered bystander with the knowledge to help a friend.

Violence in an intimate relationship is a systematic pattern of domination, where the abuser uses abusive tactics designed to maintain power and control over the woman.  The Power and Control Wheel was developed by Domestic Violence Intervention Program based in Duluth, Minnesota.  The P and C Wheel provides a good illustration of the tactics used by an abuser.

Remember:  You may be the only person your friend can trust.  Be attentive, believe what she says, tell her you care, and show her you are willing to help.

•    Reassure your friend that she does not cause the abuse.  An abuser learned to use violence as a way of expressing anger or frustration long before he/she met your friend.
•    Physical safety is the first priority.  Women frequently minimize the violence because abuse usually gets worse over time.  Ignoring the abuse is dangerous.  Explain this to your friend and help her to make an emergency safety plan by obtaining transition house phone numbers and considering police and legal protection.
•    Tell your friend she is not alone.  Abuse happens to many women, of all income and educational levels, in all social classes, in all religious and ethnic groups.
•    If she is not ready at this point to make major changes in her life, do not take your friendship away from your friend.  Your support may be what will make it possible for her to act at a later date.
•    Give your friend BWSS’s brochures, website link, which have information and resources of help for women.
•    Help your friend with her self-esteem.  Tell her what you admire about her; why you  value her as a friend; what are her strengths and special qualities.
•    Support her emotions:  fear, anger, hope, grief in the loss of her relationships, etc.
•    Help with children:  they need support for their feelings, to know the reality of what is going on, to know they are not to blame. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism Leave a comment

My Reality: My Rapist Was a Feminist

by Lola Davidson

Trigger Warning: Rape, Mental Abuse

When I first met my rapist, I was 18 years old, I was independent, I believed in equality, I hated the idea of men paying for my dates with them, yet I didn’t consider myself a feminist at the time. I had never been taught about feminism in school or growing up. I knew very little about feminism except that a girl in my school who constantly harassed and physically assaulted me was a feminist, so when I met the man who would come to be my rapist and he asked me whether I was a feminist, I said: “Oh, God no, I am so not a feminist.”

“Why not? Feminism is amazing, it helps so many people,” he responded. I felt embarrassed then, and later on I did my research on the topic, took classes on Women’s Studies and realized that feminism was in fact amazing. Feminism helped me deal with my eating disorders, with past abuse. It helped me understand life so much better. I felt so much admiration for this man because in a world full of misogyny, here was a man who actually took the time to be on our side. What an amazing guy, I thought.

He was constantly praised for being a feminist, especially by me. He started grooming me to act a certain way so that his sexist remarks would fly under the radar. He acted from an unconscious belief that feminism wasn’t supposed to protect all women, just the ones that he felt were worthy of it, and I did not fit into that group.

I always felt the need to laugh off any microagressions he made towards me because if I didn’t, he would point out how flawed I was for getting my feelings hurt. He would praise women who were successful and belittle women who had any chink in their armor.

He was a feminist but girls who went after modelling were stupid, he was a feminist but when I wore a dress and stockings I was asking for it. He was a feminist but my bisexuality meant I owed him a threesome with another girl. He was a feminist but when he was aroused and I was asleep my consent was unnecessary. He was a feminist but calling me a dumb slut and penetrating me while I shook and cried was “not a big deal”. He was a feminist but he mentally abused me for two years because of my gender and how inferior he believed it was to his.

My rapist doesn’t know he raped me because he thinks the label “feminist” protects him from being a bad person – Hell, if someone told him what he did to me was rape, he wouldn’t believe them because I did not physically push him away. To him, my fear was a flaw in my character, not his. However, it doesn’t matter what he believes because your labels do not excuse you from being a monster.

Posted on by Lola Davidson in Feminism, My Reality 1 Comment

Living (In)Human Lives

by Farah Ghuznavi. This post was originally published in the Star Weekend Magazine, Bangladesh. Reposted with permission.

Scanning the newspaper headlines these days invariably involves encountering a series of unpleasant news items. But if the news in general is bad, the news with regard to the situation of women in many places is even worse. In our own scenario, stories about the disturbingly varied forms of violence perpetrated on women are depressingly familiar. And contrary to popular mythology, the scourge of domestic violence in particular cuts across class barriers and income differentials quite effortlessly. Terrible as these stories of rape, abduction, wife beating and murder are to read, they cannot be properly understood without examining the underlying social structures and attitudes that underpin and reinforce such behaviour.

A recent global survey of experts by Thomson Reuters attempted to identify the five worst countries in which to be born a woman today, based on variables such as female infanticide and foeticide, sex trafficking, forced marriage, so-called “honour killings”, maternal mortality rates and so on.

Unsurprisingly, high levels of violence against women appeared to be a common factor in almost all of the countries featuring in the “Top Five”. It was probably no surprise to anyone that Afghanistan appears at the top of the list, with the Democratic Republic of Congo in hot pursuit. Pakistan takes third place – and shockingly, India fourth – with Somalia tailing in the fifth spot.

Interestingly enough, one of the reasons that India (which most people might not expect to see classified with the other countries on this list) appears so near the top is related to the strong degree of ‘son preference’ existing there. This is common to most countries in the region, but in India has led to an estimated “50 million girls thought to be ‘missing’ over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide,” according to the UN population fund.

To dispose so mercilessly of babies and foetuses for the ‘crime’ of belonging to the wrong sex surely provides the ultimate proof of how little value is placed on the lives of girls and women in this region. And that these statistics should come from India, feted for being the largest democracy of the world – and soon to be an economic super-power – is beyond shameful. It is an utter disgrace.

But examples of female foeticide, so-called “honour killings” and the trafficking and enslavement of women are merely the most extreme forms of gender violence. Negative attitudes towards girls and women percolate through many layers of society, and often take more insidious and widely accepted forms. For example, the common question that is raised in Bangladesh when allegations of wife beating are brought against someone is: what did she do to deserve it? In the vast majority of cases, she didn’t “do” anything, and in no case can such violence be justified.

The fact that we, as a society, can even ask such a question gives away the fact that many people believe that women should have no agency or capacity to make decisions for themselves; that they should be content to live at the mercy of others, to be obedient and accept whatever brutality is visited upon them in silence. And never underestimate the importance of silence – it is what allows the perpetuation of the cycle of falsehoods, and sustains the illusion that everything is as it should be. Read more

Posted on by Farah Ghuznavi in Feminism 2 Comments

Ghosts of Violence Ticket Giveaway

Ghosts of Violence Ballet 2011 Last week I wrote about the Ghosts of Violence ballet, coming to Vancouver as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. This Canadian presentation is part of the We Can BC campaign. According to Project Coordinator Anastasia Gaisenok, “The ballet itself is a spectacular multimedia production. It is quite stunning visually and choreographically. Music by Schnitke and Rachmaninoff adds a whole different dimension to the level of emotional intensity brought through dance and videography.  The story line follows couples from different socio-economic backgrounds dealing with domestic violence. I think it is quite unique in bringing such a difficult issue at the centre of the stage.” For performance excerpts, check out the video below.

This event, at the Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre in the new SFU Woodward’s  is sure to be a unique and moving experience. And I’m giving away two tickets to Gender Focus readers for the opening night performance on Thursday, December 1 at 7:30 PM.

There are two ways to enter. Each gets you one entry:

1. Comment on this post or on the Gender Focus Facebook page. If you want a subject for the comment, let us know what your favourite ballet or dance performance is.

2. Post the following on Twitter: I entered to win 2 tickets to Ghosts of Violence Ballet from Gender Focus & @jarrahpenguin #vaw #yvr

The deadline for entries is Wednesday, November 16, 2011. Please make sure if you’re entering that you are in the area and can actually attend the event on December 1.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment

Domestic Violence is Tolerated—Officially

One of my favorite episodes of The Power Puff Girls was when Princess became mayor and made crime legal. The happy metropolis of Townsville was thrown into disarray as criminals and thugs began to rob banks and beat people up with impunity. The Power Puff Girls, always trying to do what is right and save the day, were forced to simply watch as criminals were set free from prison.

I hadn’t thought about that particular episode in years, but it immediately jumped to mind when I heard that Topeka, Kansas has recently decriminalized domestic violence. No, you are not living in some wacky cartoon world. A city in an industrialized, first world nation, that touts itself abroad as the model of democracy, has decriminalized domestic violence. Adding insult to injury, it’s Domestic Violence Awareness month.  If only the Power Puff Girls were here.

Apparently budget cuts have been so severe that Topeka can no longer afford to prosecute cases of domestic violence. It is still a crime under state law, but The Associated Press says that, “As of [October 13th], 21 people jailed have been released without facing charges, according to Topeka police.” This is troubling on many, many different levels, so I will focus on two main concerns.

First, since domestic violence is such a huge problem that we can no longer afford to prosecute it, it should now be apparent that this is a societal epidemic. Simply arresting perpetrators is not going to fix the problem in the long term. The Domestic Violence Resource Center states that one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. For comparison, the Harvard School of Public Health claims people have a 1 in 6,700 chance of dying in a car crash. Note that it is still illegal to drive without a seat belt in Topeka. I’m not advocating that we ignore driving laws. I’m simply at a loss as to why not wearing a seat belt is considered a more serious offense than beating a spouse. The rates of domestic violence in this country are disturbing, but even more so is the collective apathy that allows it to continue.

Second, as I said, this problem is too big to solve by simply arresting people. Even after an abuser is arrested, survivors often face years of custody battles, stalking, harassment, difficulty supporting themselves, and an unimaginable struggle to heal physically and emotionally. And even if a survivor is totally free from her attacker, this only solves an individual problem. Putting these attackers in jail does little to address the perpetuation of violence against women in our society.

But even though arresting the perpetrators is not enough, it is currently necessary to ensure survivors are safe from further attacks. Think of domestic violence as a deadly infectious disease instead of just a societal one. Simply putting sick people in quarantine is not going to cure it, but that doesn’t mean they should wander free, endangering lives and spreading the sickness.

The Power Puff Girls solved this problem by stealing from the mayor who made crime legal. She realized that a town without laws left her vulnerable to theft and harm, and she would rather be protected than be the mayor of a dangerous city. I’m not at all saying we should march down to Topeka and perpetrate domestic violence on lawmakers (even though it’s technically legal*). But if we as a society do not voice objections to domestic violence, regardless of its legal status, it will not ever get easier (or cheaper) to fix. We live in a society where domestic violence is tolerated. This is everyone’s problem.


*Assaulting lawmakers would not be legal – just drawing a comparison to how ridiculous it is that assaulting one’s spouse is not considered a chargeable offense.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

Books: The Revolution Starts at Home

Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Vancouver launch of The Revolution Starts at Home, an anthology dealing with intimate partner violence within activist and radical communities. Co-editors Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha were present at the Rhizome Cafe to talk about their powerful collection of stories. The insights shared by participants and audience members at the launch was extremely moving.

The Revolution Starts at Home is different from many other works on intimate partner violence in that it tells stories from voices all too often marginalised. It broke away from mainstream discourse of intimate partner violence as a phenomenon perpetrated solely by men against women, and alongside such examples also included real-life stories of abuse in same-sex relationships, including by and against trans people.

It also highlighted the very real dangers that racialised people, non-status immigrants, people of minority sexual orientations or gender identities, and activists who organise against police brutality or the prison-industrial complex often face in taking intimate partner violence to the authorities.

In a particular powerful anecdote from the book, one author relates the time the police were called to her apartment after her neighbours heard her partner physically assaulting her, and immediately upon entering the apartment pulled her aside and demanded to see her immigration papers. The police did not make any effort to make her feel safe or reassure her that her rights were going to be protected, which informs why so many other contributions to the anthology deal with support and internal policing mechanisms that activist and radical communities can implement without having to rely on state apparatus.

I would strongly recommend picking up a copy of the anthology. However, part of the reason that the book launch was so powerful were the contributions of audience members. The issues that The Revolution Starts at Home deals with aren’t things that we talk about every day, and the opportunity that the book launch provided for people to get together, to talk, to discuss their own experiences, and to share ideas for strengthening their own activist and radical communities was incredibly valuable.

If you couldn’t make it to the book launch, I would strongly recommend having these conversations with your friends, your allies, and your fellow community members. What are their experiences? How are they similar or different to your own? And what do you feel needs to be done to make you, your friends, or your allies safe in this community, especially if you don’t feel like you can rely on the state?


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism Leave a comment