Monday, March 08, 2010

Saving Our Mothers From Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence VictimTaffi Crawford

Saving Our Mothers From Domestic Violence
Finally ‘Changing The Game’ To Help Women And Girls

The only issue in our society that is more prevalent than domestic violence is cancer. In fact, domestic violence probably touches and affects more people than cancer. It’s that serious. The hitting, punching and emotional abuse that befalls women caught up in abusive relationships leaves the victims and their children shattered for decades.

When Taffi Crawford, a nurse and mother, was gunned down on the Friday before Valentine’s Day by her ex-boyfriend, we were all stunned. Just as we were stunned last year when a lovely and talented teacher, Ashley Scott, was beaten and left for dead by her husband on their garage floor. This community is second in the nation in ‘reported’ cases of domestic abuse, with only 25 percent of cases ever being reported. Beatings and threats that don’t require medical attention or police involvement rarely get reported, but the damage is done to the women, girls and children who hear the harsh profanity, feel the punches landing, and see the rage of the animals who inflict the daily beatings.

Why does the woman stay? And why won’t the man stop hitting her? These questions are pondered by the YWCA Abused Women’s program staff, and by the authorities who continue to see the broken and battered bodies of the ladies who end up in the Emergency Room at The Med. The answer to the “why the women stay” question can be summed up in three words – fear, economics, and love. The victims FEAR what will happen to them if they try to leave; the victims can’t financially afford to leave (or so they think); and in too many cases, the women actually still have love for the abuser, thinking he will one day change. False pride, low self-esteem, confusion, and embarrassment all contribute to the most reckless decision that these women will ever make. They give up their best years to this creep who only wants to control her, because he controls very little else in his life.

Here are some realities that Memphis must now consider: We cannot continue to care more about the Memphis Animal Shelter than we do about the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center. I love animals, especially kittens, but we cannot continue to make the discovery of three dead dogs in a Mississippi corn field a “Breaking News” story, while a woman has been beaten, raped, and told to clean up the mess. Let’s see the televised photographs of the black eyes and broken bones of abused women, just as we show emaciated dogs and cats, with a warning that these pictures are “graphic”. If we could only show the rage of these cowardly abusers on video, while they were actually swinging at vulnerable frightened women, the public would quickly turn on these creeps, just as we’ve turned on drunk drivers. Domestic violence happens behind closed doors…usually. It’s a private matter with huge public health implications.

Starting today, we have to empower women, and teach them self-defense techniques. We have to equip our boys with tactics and resources that can help their mothers break the cycle of brutality and domestic violence. We have to pass legislation that makes Protective Orders mean what they say, and teach women that it’s not Ok to allow the suspect to talk his way back in with his promises to “do better.” We have to start early, teaching our boys that they don’t OWN this woman, and that she has a right to exist as a human being, not merely as a sex object that he can isolate from the outside world as he pummels her to the kitchen floor.

The situation can only change with a constant focus on the reasons men do it, the reasons women stay in such violent conditions, and the real impact on the children who witness a beating in the early morning hours or in the middle of the night. I’ll stop short of calling for “good vigilantes” who will go to the aid of abused women, and we don’t want her brothers or uncles to go to jail for assault while the abuser walks free as a crime victim. That would be the ultimate irony and insult. Self-defense techniques for women, new legislation modeled after Drunk Driving laws, greater public awareness, and real concern for the mothers, aunts and sisters in our society who are beaten every day will level the playing field, and finally “change the game” in favor of women. We love you Taffi.

(Anthony Nichelson is program director for the Citadel Radio Group and founder of the 110 Institute. 

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