A Note

To all those who have been reading this blog and wondering, “Who’s writing this stuff?” allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Emily, and I have spent the past 10 weeks interning at The Mary Byron Project in Louisville, Kentucky. I am originally from New York, and I am currently an undergraduate at Yale University in Connecticut.

I am from the suburbs. I attend a top-tier university. My parents are still married. I am white. I don’t do drugs. Yet, I see sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence and domestic violence all the time. It’s everywhere. If you just open your eyes and unclog your ears, you will start to see and hear it, too. Intimate partner violence affects all of us, no matter our age, our race, our socioeconomic status, our religion, or our region of residence. And it affects every aspect of our lives.

An advocate in the Jefferson County Domestic Violence Intake Center, Cammie Sizemore, told me that working in DV changes you. She told me I ought to think really hard before I decide this is what I want to do. She told me to consider what I like about myself, and ask myself if I’m willing to let that change. Cammie, the perceptive woman she is, knew within five minutes of meeting me that I am a cock-eyed optimist. She knew within five minutes that I like to think everyone has good intentions. She knew within five minutes that I simply cannot figure out why people can be so mean! And maybe she thought to herself, this girl is not cut out for this sort of work. After my first day at the Intake Center, I certainly had that thought, anyway.

But my thoughts didn’t stop there. Who’s to say that my hopefulness and sensitivity are necessarily disadvantages? And who’s to say that working in this field or that field will change me? Despite the placid picture I painted of myself above, I have gone through some rough times; I have faced adversity; I have struggled with my identity and my purpose; I have been passive and let bad things happen to me; I have seen bad things happen to other people and stood there knowing there was nothing I could do.

I am aware of the world around me. I never outgrew the childish tendency to ask too many questions and try to truly understand and relate to everyone I encounter. I like to analyze people and their interactions, whether they are characters in novels, my own family members, or strangers on the subway. Relationships have always fascinated me. The connections that people make with one another are vast and complex. As I’ve grown older, I have become both more independent and more involved with other people. I have been in healthy and unhealthy relationships, and have learned the difference the hard way. Not all relationships are rooted in love and trust. Many are much more twisted.

Domestic violence is nothing new. Men are physically more powerful than women and they historically have been given more societal power than women. This unbalanced power dynamic is at the crux of most domestic violence cases. Intimate partner violence is not about a need for anger management; in fact, batterers are in full control of their anger. Batterers manage their anger quite well; they deliberately direct it at the person or people most vulnerable to attack.

Additionally, outsiders (like the police) tend to stay out of private affairs more so than public ones. If you threaten a stranger on the street, people will intervene. But if you hit your wife in the home you share, people will not only fail to intervene, but they will often go further and blame the victim. They will ask “well, why doesn’t she just leave?” Domestic violence victims are the only class of victims held responsible for the abuse they suffer. People are more willing to fault the woman for staying with her abuser than fault the man for being abusive. No one ever asks why, if the man hates his wife so much, he doesn’t just leave.

Let’s back up for a second. Let’s take a look at people my age, the ones who don’t typically cohabit with their intimate partners. There’s a different name for the violence that may occur in these relationships: dating violence. And dating violence is where it all starts. After all, those women who are deemed victims of domestic violence were once dating the guy.

Dating is rife with insecurities, leaps of faith and second-guessing. And yet, most everyone dates. To be in a relationship, you need to date. And we’re brought up to believe (and it seems to be our biological destiny) that we should be in romantic relationships. And the worst part is that once emotions are involved, it is quite difficult to perceive whether or not your relationship is healthy or not. Who is to judge whether or not he loves you or he loves controlling you? Who is to determine when he crosses the line from protective to possessive? It’s a cycle. When you’re dating, you may not realize the pattern. And when you’re married, it may be too late. You can’t change someone else any more than you can totally understand someone else. He chooses to hit you. He chooses to demean you.

You can’t make his choices; you can only make your own.

My final blog entry for my internship is about song lyrics. I did not plan for this post to coincide with the rising popularity of an Eminem song that features Rihanna, but it has worked out that way. The song, which is now #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, focuses on domestic violence, a topic with which Eminem is quite familiar (see his autobiographical songs “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” and “Kill You”). In “I Love The Way You Lie,” Eminem very accurately breaks down the cycle of violence, but I have no idea what sort of message the song is supposed to send. The music video premiered Aug. 4 on MTV.

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About The Mary Byron Project

The Mary Byron Project was established in 2000 in memory of the young woman whose tragic murder led to the creation of automated crime victim notification technologies. As a nationally recognized thought leader on domestic violence, the Mary Byron Project cultivates and supports efforts that extend beyond crisis management to attack the root causes of this epidemic and help build safer, healthier communities. Solutions are within our grasp. The Mary Byron Project was established with that quest in mind.
This entry was posted in dating violence, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, song lyrics, violence against women and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Note

  1. Shannon Moert says:

    I was a victim at the young age of 5 watching violent acts that transpired in my home as a child, again at the age of 11 during my mother’s second marriage, and at the age of 16 when I met my husband and stayed with for 15 years.

    Abuse was all I knew. I told myself when I was 12 years old, I would never allow that to happen to me or allow my children to live a horrible life of vi0lence. Guess what.. I followed my mother’s foot steps and took it a few steps further..

    Last week, I attended the Mary Byron Project at the Roth home. Some people thought I was an attorney, others thought I was a professor. No one once, asked me if I was a victim.

    No one would know after all these years, I once, was the little girl, the teenager, the girlfriend, the wife and the mother abused. Who would have thought?

    I’ve had a shot gun held to my head more than once, beat black and blue, knocked down a flight of stairs and punched in the stomach while 7 months pregnant. (that’s just the subject field).

    On March 22, 1993 I met someone who saw something in me I didn’t see. They believed in me. This is when my life became “MY LIFE”.

    I went from being a nobody to a somebody. I had no education, a mother at 17 and worked three jobs to keep a roof over our heads.

    Once my self esteem came back, I worked one job instead of three, went back to school and began a career way beyond my own belief.

    I’ll never forget on February 15th, 1994 (my first time speaking) the woman who stood up in front of everyone at the Women Shelter and said to me :

    ” Lady, don’t go givin’ us a lecture! ” ” You don’t have a clue what its like standing up there in your jewelry and fancy suit”. This is when I knew I found my calling!!!

    You see, the reason I am writing this, with people like you, the Roth’s and all the supporters of the Mary Byron Project, we can make a difference in someone’s life.

    P.S. You actually sat right next to me 🙂

  2. emily says:

    thank you for that shannon… you’ve just made the past 10 weeks so worth it for me, and i feel more sure than ever that this is the field in which i want to (and need to) work.
    🙂

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