By Kit Gruelle, Guest Writer
During the last 12 months, I’ve traveled around the country talking with and listening to women and men talk about the violence and abuse they have experienced or are experiencing. After 30 years in this work/movement, I am appalled at what is still happening, everywhere, and how our systems still practice institutional misogyny, combined with racism and classism, as a matter of course.
It’s not that good advocates are not in programs working hard, and it’s not that there are not good cops and good prosecutors. By good, I mean cops who understand the complexities of domestic violence and do everything they can to gather all the evidence, and prosecutors who fight hard in court using woefully inadequate laws, like North Carolina’s Misdemeanor Assault With A Deadly Weapon, for example, or a domestic violence law in SC, where a man gets thirty days for beating his wife (while in the same state, punishment for beating one’s dog is five years).
But good police work and good prosecution still fail when heard by a judge who remains ignorant about domestic violence, or worse, is openly hostile to abuse victims.
Sometimes I have to check the date and remind myself that this is 2015, not 1965. Despite the progress we have made, women are still re-victimized routinely. They are universally blamed for the violent and abusive acts of their partners, not just by the abusers but also by society in general (Why don’t you just leave? and I’d never put up with that! are still commonly heard), and by departments of social services who do things like take their children away from them because they are being abused. Again, it is mind-blowing that so many “social workers” fail so miserably in connecting the dots between his choice to be controlling and violent (see the Power and Control Wheel and her sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Rather than punish her and the children, why not draw a line in the sand for the abuser and tell him it stops right here, right now?
But even after all these years, it seems to be easier to blame her for his abuse. We are a deeply misogynistic country.
I have heard stories from women that echo the stories I first heard when I started doing this work. One young woman recently told me that her female family doctor would not prescribe birth control pills for her, despite the fact that those pills would address her intense and unbearable periods, and instead, gave her a Christian book to read. Another woman I met recently told me that when she went to speak with her Bishop about the domestic violence she was experiencing at the hands of her successful businessman husband, he counseled her to be “more righteous.” Finally, she left her church, but felt unmoored because that was the community she grew up with. And I recently met a mother whose daughter is now serving a 35 year sentence in prison for killing her incredibly abusive husband. She gave me a copy of the case history, including some of the court testimony. Her daughter reported the abuse numerous times, to the police and to doctors in the hospital, but when she killed him (not long after he had sexually assaulted her and was returning to do it again), they simply decided she needed to be locked away. She is scheduled to be released in 2042.
Why are we so hardwired to accept misogynistic and patriarchal violence and abuse? What will it take to change this fundamental dynamic?
I’m out the door now to go meet more students, young women and men with their lives in front of them. I wonder what they have already witnessed, and I wonder what is waiting for them in their futures. A less violent, less misogynistic, racist, homophobic culture would be a refreshing change.
About Writing for Peace Guest Writer Kit Gruelle
Kit Gruelle is a survivor of domestic violence and has worked as a battered women’s advocate and community educator for over 25 years. She educates advocates, criminal justice professionals, healthcare providers, faith leaders, educators and other allied professionals about domestic violence. She is dedicated to challenging the stereotypes and prevailing belief systems about violence against women and children and highlights the prevalence of out-of-date responses that do little to change the fundamental dynamics of domestic violence.
Learn about the documentary, Private Violence.
Beliefs of Fictional Characters
By Writing for Peace Adviser Victoria Hanley
For this exercise, write down three beliefs you hold dear, including when they first developed in you and how they may have changed over time. In what ways have these beliefs influenced the actions you take? Now, consider which beliefs would fit the motivations of fictional characters you’re writing about. Try making a list of all the characters in a story, what they believe, and what those beliefs have driven them to do. Often in fiction, it’s better to show characters taking action, rather than getting them to talk about what they believe. Make notes on ways your characters could demonstrate a belief without declaring it. And peace be with you!
Meet Victoria Hanley, Writing for Peace Adviser
Victoria Hanley’s novels have won many honors and awards at home and abroad, and inspired two nonfiction writing books: Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write, and Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. She teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and at Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins.
Learn more about Victoria’s books, read her blog, download a free chapter of Wild Ink, and watch Victoria in action at www.victoriahanley.com.
Writing for Peace News
Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:
Popular Resistance Newsletter – A People United Will Never Be Defeated, By Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese
2016 Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest
Young Writer Contest information will be released shortly. Watch for our announcement, coming soon!
DoveTales “Nature” Edition Update
Purchase your copy of DoveTales “Nature” and support Writing for Peace! To all those who have ordered books for yourself, family, and friends, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Book sales help to cover the substantial costs of funding our mission.
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