[Note: This describes people I know, but I have excluded their names. This account will be familiar to many who have witnessed or heard anecdotes of domestic violence incidents. What I witnessed (and continue to witness) is sadly not unusual.]
This has been Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In two days everyone will forget and this will be relegated to the recesses of our minds until some other big-name celebrity or athlete is in the news for abusing his significant other. A local car dealer is donating money and has said he had no idea ‘this was going on’ until he saw it recently in the news.
The old me can understand. We just can’t wrap our heads around someone we care about being violent towards us. Unfortunately, abuse is more than physical. It can be emotional, verbal, economical, sexual.
I usually broach this subject in May on the anniversary of the murder of a friend of mine by her ex. In the months after that, I learned a great deal about domestic violence. For one thing, most people I spoke to were unaware of it as a common problem. But with one in three women as victims, it is nearly impossible not to know someone who’s been abused.
When my friend went to court to get approval to reside in her own house with her ex-partner and the only other option was homelessness, I thought she must have had other choices. Even before she died, I was guilty of victim-blaming, and since her death, while I’ve learned better, there are many others who continue to blame her and other victims like her.
Why couldn’t she live with her parents? Not an option.
Why couldn’t she get a job and an apartment on her own? She already had three jobs.
Why couldn’t she leave her ex alone; it was his house? It was their house. Her name was on the mortgage even though he illegally removed her from the deed.
Why did she need to sue him for money? It was her money; money she had earned working alongside her ex in their business.
If she were in real danger, the police would have intervened, wouldn’t they? Not in my experience. In fact, the police were at the home the night before the murders; less than twenty-hours before.
Anything that puts the responsibility on the victim is victim-blaming. No exceptions.
As seconds ticked to very few minutes, three people were dead; one of them the murderer and another man’s life was changed forever. Regardless of living or dying, there is no escape from an occurrence of domestic violence.
There is only one person to blame – the abuser with the gun; the murderer. He didn’t snap. He killed people because his ex asserted her independence; because she stood up for herself. She would have been free in six weeks.
Instead, three years later, more often than not she is blamed for her own death because of her choices. Her choices. Her choices which weren’t really choices at all.
That is victim-blaming and it needs to end; more importantly, the domestic violence needs to end.