I heard the woman crying across the hall in an apartment complex, watched her hurry through a doorway and down some stairs, her face filled with pain. On another occasion, a woman stood at a bus stop, as a man, using the foulest language, drove by and cursed her. Violence is a way of life for many people, both male and female, as organizations look for ways to end the pain and politicians debate over who should be protected under the law.
Domestic violence has been a hot button issue on both sides of the political aisle, although these days some folks associate abuse with women’s rights restrictions as well. There may be a ring of truth to that, as it was in those decades of the 50′s we sometimes reflect on with nostalgia, when women often followed the husband’s dictates, even to how she should vote.
These days domestic violence comes in many forms. While it is often thought that the fist is the primary assault weapon, words offer tremendous pain as well. Rap videos and songs often focus on the woman as an object to be ridiculed or used for sex. Those are abusive elements in our culture that come through in many ways, including the “bad girl” television shows that accent girls pummeling each other, fighting over fellows or just fighting to be the “baddest.”
The scars of abuse come in many forms. While we may think of the abused person with the black eye or the torn garments, it is often the more subtle signs experts tell us must be looked at as a sign that someone is being victimized. Often the victim of abuse has serious problems with self-esteem and avoids conflict in order to protect himself or herself from further abuse. Isolation is another characteristic of the abused; friends and family are left behind as the victim lives a type of closeted lifestyle that keeps out those folks who could help.
With the discussions recently on the rights of women and gays, Democrats and Republicans were torn over the expansion of the Violence Against Women Act. Republicans were opposed to expanding the bill to include gays and lesbians, immigrants and tribal communities. Although most Senate Republicans voted against the expansion, enough were in favor of it to allow the bill to be passed in the Senate. Presently the House is debating the bill, with Republicans putting forth their own version of the bill to eliminate protections for immigrants, tribal members and same-sex couples. The Republican version of the bill takes away the confidentiality protections for immigrant women as well. Folks are concerned that a bipartisan bill in the Senate is turning into a major political battle over the issues of immigration and same-sex relationships, specifically with regard to expansion of protection to these groups. It also removes the ability of people to keep confidential their report of abuse.
The issue of domestic violence remains a controversial one, with most folks agreeing that a man should not hit a woman nor a woman hit a man, but the definition of abuse, what type of relationships might be included and whether folks should open themselves up to retaliation from the abuser after reporting a dispute remains a political debate. And this hits many people particularly hard.