Friday, October 17, 2008

Get the Facts: Encouraging Women to Protect Themselves Is Not Blaming the Victim

Women's eNews published a story this week about men becoming angry enough to take action on domestic violence.

Hooray for all men who understand the problem. Given the complexities of domestic violence -- and indeed, all violence -- against women, we need all the help we can get from men who get it. After all, most men are not violent abusers, and when they take action to show their disapproval, they have a strong affect on other men.

But the article goes on to say:
The focus is usually on women not doing enough to protect themselves or their children, while far less attention is paid to the perpetrators. Why aren't more men outraged at their fellow males' actions and motivated to end it, once and for all? Why are women left to pick up the pieces? Isn't this a man's problem?
Men cause the problem, but it's women who suffer from it. Rather than waiting around for outraged guys to "take care of" the bad ones -- which could take a long time -- women will be safer if they take steps to keep themselves safe.

In the case of domestic abuse, the two most important things women can do are to learn to recognize men who are likely to become abusive and to immediately get out of a relationship when the first signs of abuse appear. The programs aimed at high school students I discussed last week are a step in the right direction.

Giving women the facts and skills to avoid becoming victims is not the same as blaming the victim.

Several years ago, I was on a panel at a science fiction convention discussing women in the military, and someone in the audience asked whether we thought that teaching women to protect themselves would reduce violence against women. Both I and a fellow panelist -- a retired military officer -- answered with an enthusiastic "yes." That doesn't mean that either of us thought women were at fault for being attacked; rather, it means we think that if women are not perceived as easy targets, violence will drop.

Of course, if men think they will be censured by other men for violent acts against women, their actions will change, too. There is no one solution to violence in our society. And children, of course, are rarely able to protect themselves from adults. Both men and women need to make sure they take steps to protect children.

I should add that one thing in the article disturbed me: the author quoted from the reaction of a prison inmate to a horrible video of the rape of a three-year-old: "The man who did that should receive the death penalty. No, send him to jail and let the inmates kill him. Because after that, they will."

I hope the author doesn't really agree with that point of view, though she presents it without discussion. More violence is not the solution to violence.

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