An Observation or Two About Domestic Violence Attitudes

Whenever domestic violence cases reach the newspapers, some people end up making really ignorant statements about them. Here are a few doozies I’ve heard over the past several months. They’ve happened to be referring to adult female survivors of violence by male perpetrators, so my pronouns will be consistent with that scenario. And when I use the term “survivors” I am thinking of the children, too.

  • She should have left him before it got to this point
  • The act of leaving is frequently a calculated risk that requires planning, marshaling of scarce resources and a leap of faith. Even where arguably true, this statement ignores the courage involved. At worst, it implies that the survivors don’t deserve assistance if they’re not abiding by somebody else’s idea of a timetable.

  • I’ve heard that she hit him, too
  • A blameless past is not a requirement for seeking protection and justice.

  • Most of the women at the shelter are just working the system
  • Speaking as a former volunteer at Safe Passage, I can assure you most vehemently this is not the case.

  • She should pack up and make a fresh start in another town
  • Let’s assume the speaker is not implying that survivors should feel embarrassment or shame for any reason, or that they should leave so we can all pretend that DeKalb doesn’t have these problems. Many — perhaps most — survivors of domestic violence who are able to make positive changes in their lives do so by building support systems in their own communities. It is generally neither necessary nor healthy to sever these connections. It is definitely hurtful, however, to make suggestions that could be construed as, “We don’t want you here.”