One of the things that has changed most about me over the past decade is the way I look at societal and cultural issues. I've found that with personal and internal change has come a desire to see and consider issues in a different way. In a world where we often want simple choices--A and B--I’ve found myself searching for a third option.
This was never more true than when I worked in the domestic violence advocacy field.
When folks find out I worked at a domestic violence shelter, one of the first responses I get is “I don’t understand why women stay with violent men” or “why doesn’t she leave?”.
The truth is, for every woman who experiences violence in a relationship, there are 10 different reasons why she doesn’t leave. Here are a few that often come up:
Now, while everything I've just said is true, the real answer to this question is that when we ask “why doesn’t she leave?”, we’re asking the wrong question.
When we ask the question this way, we’re putting all the pressure on the abused and forgetting that most abusers don’t just come out and hit someone on the first date--making their intentions known from day one. They slowly whittle away at someone’s self-confidence, making them dependent and in love and less likely to leave before they (literally) strike.
The real question we should be asking is, why does he keep hitting her?
This is what I mean when I mention looking for a third option, seeing issues in a new light. We can’t keep putting the expectation on women to leave an abuser. At some point we have to look at men and say “you don’t get to hit, ANYMORE”.
I thought about this during the #metoo movement as well. At some point these movements can’t just be women standing up and saying “we’re done being abused”. Men also have to stand up and say, “we’re done abusing and we’re done accepting this behavior from other men.”
Violence and harassment aren’t a female problem. They're a male problem. Only when men stand up and say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” is this behavior going to change.
So why doesn't she leave? It’s not for me to judge. Live a minute in a victim’s life and you’ll see most are just doing their very best each day to survive.
So it’s time to ask a new question--one that puts the pressure to change where it should be. It’s time we expected more from our men. Not just those who abuse, but all men.
Fellas, this is our problem to solve and it's time to start now.