This week we had a very powerful Round Table Discussion with Professor Abebe Fekade, who talked about intimate partner violence. Lately we have heard a lot on this topic because it has been in the forefront of the news, but Professor Fekade wondered what can be done to implement a lasting change.
During these highly publicized incidents there is often national commentary on the events that take place, and a frequent comment that is repeated, is “why did she not just leave?” or other comments that focus on what the victim could have done to avoid the situation, instead of addressing the larger issue of abuse, and how it is brushed aside in our society.
The past few weeks are a perfect example of how we as society are horrified by the actions of others, and basque in that horror for the days or week that it is in the news, and go on with our lives until the next horror becomes the breaking news story. There is a failure to sit down and question what is going on in our society, and why these things are happening, and what can be done to circumvent them.
Within the last few weeks we have had the video where Janay Palmer is punched by her fiance, the police officer who sexually assaulted 8 black women, Hannah Graham the missing UVA student, and just now, a news alert popped up that a man in Oklahoma beheaded a woman at work, and tried to kill another woman. Most of these stories will fade into news oblivion, but for these victims and their families that horror will stay with them.
It can be claimed that these incidents have nothing to do with one another, and that these separate acts of violence are committed by those that are deranged, and a not a reflection of a heavier burden that is weighing down on society. Our discussion, touched on how this burden is seen when there are cultural norms that suggest that abuse is something kept between partners (that is just how they are), or that violence is a way of expressing love and protection. This just normalizes this behavior, and places a large amount of responsibility on victims. It is also trivializes genders, and places them into rigid roles, that provide an oversimplified explanation as to why violence occurs.
Our discussion did not end with all the answers as to what we can do to stop this, but we did talk about having a weekly discussion group that focuses on intimate partner violence, a place where we discuss some of these issues, and maybe come up with a way to make some headway. One of the things we did all agree on was respect; it may seem so simple, but it is often overlooked . Respecting people as they are, and not placing rigid gender roles, or archetypal roles, could help us learn about others, as well as ourselves, and appreciate both the similarities and differences.