So I left my job. And it was sad. It was sad because I truly loved what I did. It's important work and I was really fucking good at it. But I was also a bit relieved because with all that important work there came moments when I'd sit back and rub my eyes blurry and think about how absolutely infuriating domestic violence work is sometimes.
The last few weeks I have been trying to avoid that fury with minimal success. I've been actively following bliss this summer and had my blinders in place on purpose. Because you know what they say - you can't fight city hall. Or the NFL. Or the Internet. Or... oh, fuck it... yes, you can. But there sure as shit is a system in place to fight you right back when it comes to eradicating domestic violence. So I am sitting here rubbing my eyes blurry again and realizing I can't sit down and shut up and just write about my awesome kids and following our bliss.
I don't have a national stage like the NFL or Kieth Olbermann or Stephen A. Smith. All I have is this little ol' blog but I would be part of the problem if I didn't take the platform that I do have and say something. So, you know...
It starts small and in the home. It starts when young people are taught that being in a relationship means you are constantly grappling for power and control. It begins when young boys are taught that, to be a man, they must grab up the power and never be weak. It begins when instead of teaching our girls to stand up tall and take no shit (the way we teach our boys), we tell them they are pretty and delicate and responsible for nurturing all the things without regard to their own emotional safety. While teaching our daughters to care for everything under the sun, we forget to teach them to care for themselves and we teach our boys that women are the ones who feel things and that boys don't cry. The message? Women are weak. Men are strong.
But it doesn't stop there. Nope. If it did, it could be undone by a greater society that places equal value for women, men and children (didn't it sound weird in that order?) and has clear definitions of right and wrong as reflected by the law of the land. But we don't. We don't have that system. It simply does not exist.
If it did, Ray Rice would be out of a job and Debra Harrell would not have been carted off to jail and fired from MacDonald's. If it did, Laura Aceves (read her link please) would BE ALIVE and Gurbaksh Chahal would be in jail and having measuring contests with Charles Saatchi, Ben Roethlisberger, Chris Brown and millions of other abusers who seem to only pay for their crimes when they cross into the homicide division like Ronald Lee Haskell did.
If we lived in a society that valued life, Ronald Lee Haskell, would have been behind bars in 2008 for 1st degree assault, endangering children and terrorizing his family when he dragged his then wife through their house by her hair and beat her in front of their children. Haskill would also be in jail for kidnapping and assault on his own mother just this past June. He duct taped her to a chair for 4 hours and choked her to passing out. The latter incident was just a few weeks before Haskell killed six human beings. You know what? If a man breaks into your house and drags you out of the house by your hair and proceeds to beat you bloody in front of witnesses, you go to jail. Well, as long as he is not your boyfriend, your husband or son because then it's somehow something different, right?
In these United States you can get in trouble for all sorts of things because they are wrong wrong wrong. Awesomely, you can also be ruined for doing things that are not against the law. Here people will demand you be punished (Fired! Tarred and feathered! Shamed!) if you say unpopular things or smoke weed. Women get fired for having babies. People lose their jobs for complaining on Facebook. People are fired for being smokers, getting tattoos, expressing ideas or being homeless. Teenagers on Twitter receive death threats for saying dumb teenager things. But abuse your family? Meh. That's not our place. That's private and none of our business right?
Well the NFL is banking on that. Actually banking. With money.
It seems the offenses worthy of big punishment are the ones that interfere with their purse. Gambling, contract breeches, hurting other players during the game and smoking weed (just ask Fred Davis), can and do get you 4 or 5 game or even a season long suspensions but attacking a woman and knocking her unconscious? Oh, that's worth 2 games.
But it's not just the NFL, you guys. It's bigger than the NFL. It's bigger than ESPN or RadiumOne or whoever signs Chris Brown's paychecks. Trust me, the NFL's brand of justice is do different than our actual justice system. Because Ray Rice should be in jail and he is not. Nah, the prosecutors took a grand jury indictment for felony assault and went all the damn way down to getting the poor guy counseling instead. No trial. No jail. The prosecutor even stated that they were "very happy with the result". THE PROSECUTOR. Yep, the one charged with applying the law and speaking for the victim. He was HAPPY that Mr. Rice was gonna be a-ok.
And it's not just the rich that get off, well, for domestic violence, anyway.
I said before that I worked in a shelter for women and children for 10 years. In that time, I saw women with stitches, recent violent traumatic miscarriages, broken bones, black and bloodied eyes, internal bleeding and brain injuries. I worked with children who had multiple spiral fractures, bruises everywhere, PTSD and other severe emotional disorders caused by experiencing and witnessing violence against their mothers. I listened to stories of pets being beaten and killed in front of children's eyes. I heard stories of children locked in rooms and moms handcuffed to pipes for days. But you know what I never heard? In 10 years on the job, I never saw ONE abuser spend more than 12 months in jail. And the ones that DID get sentenced to hard time? They received their sentences for drug possession, theft and their 14th DUI. No one spent very long in jail for beating their wife and child well...unless they killed them.
Yet, I watched the system convince and even bully terrified victims into testifying against their abusers and then turn around and offer plea deal after plea deal for disorderly conduct and no jail time. You know who else gets charged with disorderly conduct? Drunk kids walking home from bars who fall asleep on sidewalks. And we wonder why women often refuse to testify against their attackers. Because were is that judge gonna be when her abuser gets out in a few days and comes looking for her?
Because he WILL come looking for her. We KNOW that.
Do you know how hard it is to try and help a person feel safe and take steps to walk free from violence when we know that our system sets her up to fail and is complicit in making her life more dangerous than if she never left the abuse in the first place?
Don't get me wrong.
There are wonderful police officers, probation officers, prosecutors and judges who work tirelessly to apply the laws and take no shortcuts. But, you guys, the shortcuts are written right into the laws. And the amount of outrage that we need to come together as a society and demand that we respond to domestic violence as the precursor to homicide, rape, child abuse, mass murder and terrorism that it absolutely is - well, it's just not there. Yet.
But then someone like Ray Rice comes along and shines a spotlight. And a huge corporation decides that Mr. Rice's money making skills on the field are worth continuing to sell their corporate soul instead of doing what is right. And the people get mad. They stand up and call bullshit. They rally. They get a step closer to changing things but then it peters out.
Don't peter out. Be angry and outraged at the NFL, and tell them about it. Absolutely. But then, please, take your outrage and keep going. The NFL and Ray Rice's reputation will stabilize as people forget. It's how this society rolls.
Please, don't forget. Instead remember that domestic violence is a daily human rights issue. It's a daily public health crisis. It's an under-reported pervasive disease that I would argue has crippled our society. It is happening to 25% of the global population. I can't think of anything else that big, can you?
Stand up and speak up when you see it. Call 911. Attend legislative hearings. Start petitions. Write a letter to the Editor. Volunteer at a shelter. Talk to your children about what healthy relationships look like. Teach your boys to share power and allow them to feel their feelings. Show your daughters that they are strong. Whatever it is for you, do something. Anything.
Please, whatever you do, just don't sit back down.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
~ Edmund Burke
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