“I decided to go back to him because of the children. He raped me again. He locked me in a room on Thursday and Friday. Then I managed to get away. I want to take him to court and get him kept away. I’m going to find a job and get my own home so I can get my children back. I want to stay away from my husband.”
— Grace, age 44, mother of seven children.
SHAME leads to secrecy because of the need to protect self and others, particularly the children. Domestic or family violence is the secret and silent epidemic of Australia, Papua New Guinea (where the above quote comes from), and probably every country on Earth.
What should sicken us goes unnoticed at the best and at its worst there’s the implication that the victims are at fault — where victims claims are either not taken seriously or, worse, they’re undermined, and worst, they’re not believed and even discredited. So much for the courage (not to mention the risks) for deciding to whistle blow.
There is a whole social science around what creates and sustains the authoritarian family arrangement that sees violence flourish in the home in the first place. This article is not going to delve into areas I’m only scantly qualified to mention and comment on.
But I do want to ask a question: why do we not believe our women who have decided to stop keeping the worst lie in the world, keeping them ‘complicit’ in a violent system, and tell the truth, for the betterment of community safety, child development, and the family concerned? (Sorry for the long question.)
I know too many stories of fact and anecdotes where women have been dismissed.
Why do we not believe our women? What possible motive do they have to lie or mislead? Perhaps the system is at fault where police find themselves hamstrung by a law and a society ill-equipped to deal with such problems. But why do those in helping professions not take women seriously? Why do families not take these women seriously? Are we so naïve to believe the men who seem really nice, I mean, “How could [put his name here] be a monster… no way!”
Here is the genuine family violence perpetrator’s psychology:
“I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“If I did, I won’t get caught.”
“If I get caught, I can talk my way out of it.”
“If I can’t talk my way out of it, the consequences will be light.”
Can we see the pathology in the thinking of men who don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, yet are ready to talk their way out of it if they are found out? He thinks he owns his wife/partner, and may be prepared to go to desperate measures to keep her controlled in his life.
Can we imagine one of these men married to our daughter, our sister, or our mother? Can we imagine what we’d feel if one of our men were involved in such behaviour?
Such men need help, but they’re least likely to desire it. Where there’s a problem — like with addiction — we must take away all their enablers.
Our women deserve support when they finally pluck up the courage to blow the whistle. And if our societal systems of law aren’t sufficiently regulated and our social systems don’t cater for alternative accommodation and support, what are we willing to do to stand in the gap for them?
There is so much shame involved for women as victims of domestic violence, but we ought to be more ashamed that we’re ignorant of the problem. We all know a woman who is a victim of this. We all know women who cannot get out of bad relationships.
The least we can do is listen to them when they come to us and believe them.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.
Quote from Human Rights Watch.