Saturday, February 18, 2012

Don't Try to be a Statistic

When a Chris Brown song comes on over the radio, I change the station. I don't care how good the music is, for me, the singer's actions outside of the studio leave a sour taste in my mouth. I can't separate the two. Apparently, there are some people who can. Worse, there are some women who are comfortable tweeting "Chris Brown can hit me anytime."

"Where have we gone wrong as a society
when girls think it's OK to be hit if the guy is hot? ...
What message does this send to other boys? ...
I don’t have a daughter,
but you better believe my son knows
it is never OK to hit, shove, push or hurt a woman."
--Lisa Cianci, Orlando Sentinel

In March 1998, No Safe Place: Violence Against Women a documentary that offered "a thoughtful examination of the origins of violence against women, looking at the biological, sociological, cultural, and historical factors involved" aired. Unfortunately I could not find a copy of this documentary available via streaming or for sale as it should be required viewing for any woman tweeting "Chris Brown can hit me anytime."

One in four women
will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
--U.S. Department of Justice, 2006, cited by The National Center for Victims of Crime
One in four women
has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
--The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000, and The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999, cited by Domestic Violence Resource Center.

I, like many others, wondered where these attitudes were coming from. Later in the week, Views from the Couch blogged about what I'd been thinking: as a society we are raising girls to believe that boys hitting them on the playground is a sign of affection.

Before you say you're not reinforcing this belief, look at your actions. What do you do when girls get hit on the playground? Are you reprimanding/counseling a child who hits another child? If not, your lack of action shows that you believe it's ok. Children learn by action - and lack of action - as much as by words.

Be careful of another more insidious teaching prevalent in Christian communities and schools: "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also (Matthew 5:39)." My parents raised me to believe violence was not a solution. When I came home from school with a concussion, chopped hair, broken glasses, or smashed fingers given to me by boys who liked me, my parents marched to the principal's office to find out what was being done. In every instance, nothing.

Matthew 5:39 was dusted off and spat in their faces. My parents were warned if I retaliated or defended myself I would be reprimanded or suspended. Fed up with the continued violence, my parents transferred my sister and I to another school. Boys still continued to show affection through violence. I learned how to fight dirty, going on the offensive when the teacher's back was turned to protect myself. At recess and lunch, I made sure I never strayed too far from line of sight of the teacher's lunch room or principal's office. Turns out bullies are less likely to act when they think they might be seen.

"The answer lies within each of us.
It's a matter of what we will or will not tolerate
as individuals, as communities, and as a nation
to allow our daughters, our sisters, our mothers,
and all the women in our lives
to walk alone without fear."

--Colleen Casto, No Safe Place producer/director

I already am a statistic; I can't change that. I can work to change the educational system my daughter will grow up in so that she won't be a statistic.

We're going to teach our daughter that violence of any kind doesn't equal affection. We're also going to teach her how to defend herself so that bullies won't continue to come after her.

Please make smart choices for you and for your children.

Credits: All images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life. Greeting card by Kate Harper Designs P.O. Box 2112 Berkeley CA 94702.