Domestic Violence- A Family Affair.

The idea that girls are less valuable than boys-women less valuable than men- makes me crazy. Thinking about my female students in China, I recall an incident that happened to one of my students. It’s a common one-still happening in all cultures, all countries- regardless of laws,women’s rights, or women’s lib.

One morning, my student Cassandra texted to say she wouldn’t be at class because she was ill, and she had something important to do. What, I wondered, other than going to the hospital or doctor, would be important for a sick person to do?

 The following day her roommate came to class alone. She explained that Cassandra stayed home because she was recovering from the bruises she incurred when her jealous boyfriend beat her up two nights before.

I asked if the police knew about it. “They do. But, they say it’s a family matter. They don’t get involved in family matters.”

It was such a broad statement that I had trouble wrapping my head around it. She wasn’t related to the boy. She didn’t live with him. Yes. She knew him. Yes. She dated him. Does that qualify him as family? Is hitting a female member of your family OK?

Becaue she was afraid he would come back, Cassandra asked another boy she knew if he would sleep on the couch for the next few nights just in case. Against campus regulations, he agreed to. The boyfriend apparently heard about this so when he showed up again, he brought a partner with him to back him up.

The fight that ensued caught the attention of the campus police.The following day the boyfriend’s parents were called. He was warned that he would be expelled if he bothered her again.

The girls told me that his threat from the university was not because he had beat her up, but because he had been overt about it-had made too much noise. Had it been kept quiet it would have remained a family affair.

Wang Xingjuan, a women’s rights activist in Beijing says,

“Chinese women feel ashamed when this happens to them, and there are still so many people who think it’s a normal event. It’s a slow process. We’ve had hundreds of years where men were simply allowed to beat their wives,” she said. “The culture is deeply rooted, and for many, it’s still taken for granted that women are inferior to men.”

That is China, a developing nation.

Here in the US where we think we have already developed, RAINN, a national organization on rape, abuse and incest, reports that every two minutes someone is sexually assulted- an average of 207,754 women and girls over 12 each year!
54% of these cases are not reported to the police. 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail. 
2/3 of them are known to the victim.
Why is this?

Women still feel ashamed and somehow guilty when they are violated. Whether it’s been two hundred or five hunderd years, women’s feelings of inferiority are deeply rooted.

Men still make most of the laws in the world. They make more money and have more infuuence. Conservative media wonks like Rush Limbaugh are allowed to slander respectable women bcause they advocate for women’s rights.

Not enough women are demandng respect and equality. Not enough of us are speaking out. Women are the only ones who can make the family safer. We must.