In case you ever wondered why many women don't report rapes, Nicholas D. Kristof may have the answer. You might want to read his op-ed piece in this week's New York Times. Here's an excerpt:
When a woman reports a rape, her body is a crime scene. She is typically asked to undress over a large sheet of white paper to collect hairs or fibers, and then her body is examined with an ultraviolet light, photographed and thoroughly swabbed for the rapist’s DNA.
It’s a grueling and invasive process that can last four to six hours and produces a “rape kit” — which, it turns out, often sits around for months or years, unopened and untested.
Read more at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/opinion/30kristof.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=rape&st=cse
Our friend Jacqui has followed up with her own post on domestic violence in response to several posts and comments on this blog. Be sure to read her take, from the perspective of a writer and psychologist based on the other side of the pond. You go girl!
See www.dirtysparkle.blogspot.com and go to Asking for It, in the April posts.
Thank you, Jacqui, for keeping the conversation going!
As horrible as it is for any individual woman to be punched and choked and slammed and kicked, the real tragedy, to me, is the legacy a violent act leaves for others. What it does to those who care about the victim and whoever threw the punches, especially when the people involved are famous.
Remember when guys joked that there was no such thing as rape? I do. It wasn't so long ago, either. And, it wasn't only guys who blamed women for getting "what they asked for" because they wore the wrong clothes, walked down the wrong street, went out with the wrong guy, or did whatever they did to bring violence and violation upon themselves. (Then there was the theory that, not only do women ask for rape, they enjoy it. But, that's another story.)
All this is to say, when it came to defining rape in the 1960s, 1970s and maybe beyond, the lines sometimes blurred between victim and attacker, as well as normal and deviant behavior.
And that brings us to today. In the Chris and Rihanna thing, what looked like a pretty clear-cut act of violence perpetrated by an out-of-control young man against a defenseless woman, has changed into something much different. According to the media, it's no longer clear which of the two was the victim and which was the perp. In fact, it's no longer clear there was a crime committed. Maybe she just got what she asked for. Maybe he just got a bit carried away.
Whatever. But, don't believe for a minute that the battle between these two pop stars is limited to the courtroom, or even the media. No, it's being played out daily in school cafeterias, at bus stops and around office water coolers, where their fans take sides and sometimes fight each other. We can only wonder which side of the flying fist they'll be on, as they get older.
Consider these excerpts from a story in last week's Village Voice (NY):
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Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.'s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle.
Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, “I'm going to beat the s--t out of you when we get home! You wait and see!" Excerpt from a sworn disposition given by Rihanna (Robin Fenty) concerning Chris Brown’s attack on her before the Grammy Awards
I’ve been thinking a lot about the attempt baby-faced R&B singer Chris Brown made on the life of pop star Rihanna.
That’s what I call it – attempted murder – but I see other people refer to the brutal incident as their “troubles,” his “problem,” the “alleged” attack. Some, including Emil Welbekin, editor of urban lifestyle magazine Giant predict “Brown will face challenges as a he wages a battle in the court of public opinion.”
I, for one, hope he goes before a criminal court, and is sentenced to prison for a long, long time. If you wanna fight to kill, I can’t think of a better place to practice than in a prison.
Of course, Rihanna is hardly unique as a victim of domestic violence. She’s just the current poster girl. And, she’s still a victim because she’s apparently conflicted over whether to testify or not. (She had no choice in whether or not to press charges: The DA filed them for her, rightly seeing the threat to society a person like Chris Brown poses. The general public can’t always wait for victims to get ready to face their tormenter before it protects itself.)
There are millions of survivors of similar abuse out there, like Rihanna, and millions more in their graves.
According to a domestic violence awareness program sponsored by the USDA, law enforcement agencies say nearly 30 percent of female homicide victims were killed by their husbands, former husbands or boyfriends.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), in conjunction with Ms. Magazine, has a names project for those poor women. It’s called Remember My Name and you can view it here: http://www.ncadv.org/programs/RememberMyNameProject_119.html
My personal interest in this case stems from several years of abuse I suffered at the hand of a man I loved, many years ago. Looking back, I wish I could have seen more clearly what was going on. I wish he had gotten the help he needed long before I met him. It was terrible, because -- like Chris Brown, I'm sure -- this man had many wonderful qualities. I just wish I had had the self-esteem to heed my instincts and get out of there long before the violence began. And, I wish there had been laws in place to protect me and other women from abusive partners, but in the 1970s, that wasn’t the case.
A cop told me -- after I dialed 911 for help because I feared he would try to make good on his threat to kill me -- that I’d have to call while he was committing the crime. He said this with a straight face. Also, he said, I would need clear evidence of an actual injury (or death) and a witness to prove he actually caused it. Until that happened, the cop and his partner would check on me every now on then while they walked their beat. They promised. I thanked them, said goodbye, then slammed the deadbolt on the door.
This is what Rihanna said Chris did after she faked a call for help:
After Robyn F. faked the call, Brown looked at her and stated, “You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I'm really going to kill you!”
Brown resumed punching Robyn F. and she interlocked her fingers behind her head and brought her elbows forward to protect her face. She then bent over at the waist, placing her elbows and face near her lap in [an] attempt to protect her face and head from the barrage of punches being levied upon her by Brown.
I’m heartened to know a death threat qualifies as a felony offense today. We don’t have to wait for the body to be carted to the morgue, or for witnesses willing to come forward and testify. And, the cops who found the bloodied, bruised and hysterical Rihanna walking the streets of Los Angeles in the middle of the night, offered her their cell phones and tried to comfort her. They took her seriously.
Now it’s time for her fans, and everyone else, to take this attack seriously. It’s not something we should brush under the rug, so they can “get on with their careers,” as regrettable as the attack may be. We all do things we regret. But, fortunately, we all don't pummel people who say mean things to us. We all don't try to strangle those who catch us in a lie. And, if we do, most of us realize we’ll be locked up before we actually make good on such a threat.
Domestic abusers – and their cousins, rapists – prey on those they have successfully controlled or believe they can control, either through intimidation or threat. They don’t attack people stronger than themselves, or people they’re sure will fight back or give the courts the chance to fight for them. They’re smart and good at sizing up people and situations. They know exactly when and how they can get away with (threatened, near, or real) murder.
Despite what you may read in People magazine or hear on the entertainment shows, the victim isn’t the bad guy here. It doesn’t matter what Rihanna said to him or didn’t say. It doesn’t matter if she was nice, horrible or a little of each. She was a mouse waiting to be pounced on by a hawk, and if had not happened that night, it surely would have happened some other time.
And, by the way, domestic violence is an equal opportunity crime. It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, economic or educational background.
He then placed her in a head lock positioning the front of her throat between his bicep and forearm. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F.'s left and right carotid arteries, causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness.
She reached up with her left hand and began attempting to gouge his eyes in an attempt to free herself.
I could not extricate myself from an abusive relationship until I felt safe enough to do so. Many miles had to be between us, and I desperately needed the support of my family and close friends. I couldn't talk about it, bear to defend my decision to leave, or explain why I had stayed so long. I asked people to simply trust me when I said I made the only decision possible, under the circumstances. Several of those I needed the most were not able to do that.
Let's hope Rihanna, and all the others out there in similarly dangerous situations, get the support they need to make the choice to live. Apparently, it doesn't matter how much fame or money you've got. You still have to make that choice on your own.
And, let's hope society wakes up to the need to deal with abusers at the very first sign of violence, even if they’re still in school. Chris Brown is only 19. Imagine what he’ll be like at 30 if he’s not stopped now!
At the same time, we need to give their prey – mostly girls and young women – the tools, the strength and the know-how to size up a dangerous situation and get out before they get hurt. I know we’ve been trying to do this for years in Take Back the Night, Domestic Violence-Free Zones and other programs, but clearly, we need to take this problem much more seriously.
Life is good! Don't waste one day of it in a toxic relationship!
My two cents.