Facey: Reframing violenceWritten by Rebecca Facey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
2012 is proving to be another hot and brutal summer in and around Toledo, as domestic violence has claimed the lives of five more area women in the past few weeks. As I researched the lives and deaths of the sisters killed by one sister’s ex-boyfriend in Blissfield and the murder of an ex-girlfriend in Perrysburg, another report came in — a mother and daughter shot by an estranged husband in Lima. It never ends. The cycle of family violence continues throughout Toledo and Ohio and America every day.
The timing couldn’t be worse to take a break from advocating for victims and survivors of domestic violence in Toledo, but after five years of attempting to hold the local courts accountable for dismissing 80 percent of domestic violence cases annually through Independent Advocates, I needed a break. I am an advocate and an activist and will never forfeit those titles. But I needed to step back from the day-to-day answering of crisis calls, attending frustrating court hearings and generally feeling the immense weight of the local domestic violence crisis.
I needed a break because domestic violence had begun to make me sad again, instead of angry, a sure sign of burnout. When I first began learning in college about violence against women, it made me sad. I was overwhelmed by the reality of 1 in 4 women being a victim of intimate partner violence in her lifetime. I was devastated by the stories I heard at Take Back the Night events and I felt helpless to do anything about it. I knew it was my purpose to work toward an end to violence against women, but for a while I had no idea how.
Finally, I found anger. Anger is good; anger I can work with, unlike sadness. Sadness is debilitating. Anger is what allowed me to leave a good-paying job “in the field” and start Independent Advocates, a grassroots nonprofit that puts the needs of survivors above grant funding or political correctness.
Anger is what engaged me in the local court system and spurred me to take on the seemingly impossible task of developing a dedicated domestic violence court to replace the ineffective nightmare of court process that currently greets — or rather, chases off — victims by the hundreds.
Well, two months into my self-imposed break (everything is self-imposed when you work by yourself), my sadness has once again given way to action-oriented anger. There is no time to be debilitated when women are being murdered and need an advocate, need someone to tell the community that the number of murders in such a short time is no coincidence, it is the pattern of abuse spinning out of control. Don’t be put off by all the anger talk; I am not a person who uses violence to retaliate for what I see as unjust in this world.
I aim to challenge the cultural acceptance of violence against women and promote a more outspoken societal response to abuse in relationships. I seek to promote positive social change and pick up where Independent Advocates left off in the conversation about our responsibility to stop domestic violence.
My first challenge is to shift that responsibility from victims to abusers. In the days following each of the recent domestic violence murders, I was contacted by various media outlets looking for victim resources. I’m not sure why they would need this again, considering they collect the same information every time a woman is murdered in Toledo. The number to the shelter hasn’t changed, the services themselves haven’t changed and our depth of understanding this complex issue obviously has not changed. When will we stop reacting to murders as if the victims were the only ones able to prevent them?
Each of the recent murders was precipitated by the end of a relationship, but still people respond to the deaths by asking why someone would stay with an abusive partner. News reporters want to know: “What can victims do to stay safe?” Carlin Glenn was safe in her Lima home, sleeping soundly at 4 a.m. when her estranged husband broke in and savagely killed her daughter before chasing her across the street and gunning her down in a neighbor’s driveway. After all of that, the best we can come up with is “What could the victims have done better?”
We desperately need to reframe the problem, because when victims bear the responsibility, abusers can get away with murder.
Email Rebecca Facey at email@example.com.