A Fighting Chance
October 11th 2012 · 1 Comment
Violence against women is a barbaric practice. It is the stuff of Cavemen, but it is a reality in these times in which we live. And it is time for America to grasp and grapple with that fact and begin to create solutions. These incidents are not in decline. On the contrary, the fact that so many abuse shelters exist is proof that violence against women is accepted, expected and supported by the system.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States where a woman is beaten every 15 seconds. 35% of all emergency room calls are a result of Domestic Violence. Every day 4 American women die as a result of this abuse. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95% of the victims of domestic violence are women.
Current strategies are not working! America needs to grasp and grapple with that fact and begin to create solutions. Enough of the yearly marches, survivor T-shirts or clothesline displays. Enough of the panel discussions, the awareness seminars and counseling victims. Enough! Let us create solutions for women to deal with this ongoing and deadly reality, and we need to start it here.
The reality of it hits home here in Utica. I can’t imagine the grief of Alexandra Kogut’s family, of her friends. But the ugly reality is that forty percent of teenage girls age 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend. (Children Now/Kaiser Pemanente Poll, December, 1995) And that statistic could be low as victims often withhold that information.
The outpouring of emotions and love for this young woman continually point to her gentleness, sweetness and her willingness to give to others–all charming female traits, those characteristics admired and expected in the classic female construct.
As Leonard Pitts explained in October 5 O-D column, a woman is not supposed to be “tough, aggressive, competitive, smart or feisty…” she does so at the cost of her own femininity.” Ideally women and girls are, “properly deferential and submissive in the presence of testosterone.”
This social construct causes real problems when girls are conditioned and rewarded to be meek and submissive and boys grow up encouraged to be physically dominant. So as girls and boys develop side by side reinforcement occurs naturally that girls will be dominated physically by boys.
Alex’s death was a shameful, senseless and avoidable act of violence. Here, at the beginning of Domestic Violence month, an innocent young woman, about to begin her adult life, is beaten to death in her dorm room by her boyfriend. Did no one hear anything? How could such a violent and vicious act happen without notice?
Even if someone in that dorm heard what was going on and was afraid to confront the abuser, why didn’t anyone pick up the phone or run for campus police? Unless dorm set ups have changed drastically since I was in college, someone heard something, a scream, a fall, crashing furniture. A beating makes noise and unless the dorm was empty or full of cowards, someone should have done something to prevent the eventual death of Alexandra.
In speaking to a devastated distant cousin of Ms. Kogut, the question was asked as to whether or not Clayton Whittemore was the product of a home of domestic abuse. The question was confirmed. A child’s exposure to the father abusing the mother is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. (American Psychological Association, Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, 1996.)
It has been rumored that “Roid Rage” fueled Whittemore’s violence. That the standout hockey player used steroids to bulk up and power his game. Beyond being illegal, steroids also make men mean. But mean understates the description of a person who beats a woman to death.
And Whittemore is the second tragedy in this awful story. He has confessed to the beating death and will more than likely spend the better part of his most productive years behind bars.
This is probably not the first time that Whittemore has attacked a woman. These acts grow more intense as the perpetrator gets away with them. Alex’s last Tweet of “I should have known” could be an indicator of the resurfacing of some prior brutality even her closest friends did not know.
Again, girls are rewarded for being ladylike. On the other hand, boys are rewarded for prevailing in physical contests and encouraged in contact sports.
Even girl soccer players have to overcome that feminine tendency when they first come into contact on the field. They need to get over it. And they do, with time and training.
I wrote a blog some months ago pertaining to Domestic Violence and my time as a young woman spent as a victim of domestic abuse. It was Martial Arts training that equalized the equation between me and the larger, stronger, more accustomed to fighting and grappling man who abused me.
In the blog I outlined a concept that could be implemented in our schools, where from the second grade, every year little girls begin to learn the basics of self-defense.
I do not profess to be an expert in setting down a curriculum, let the experts develop age-appropriate and progressive training but the essential elements are these: Start early with girls in school. Every year at least one segment of their physical education should include self-defense technique. Start with blocking and retreating then follow it up with counter-punching, hold breaks, sweeps, kicks, take downs and throws. Train girls not to stand a fight, but to stop any assault, do some damage and get away.
If the little boy who punches or grabs a little girl inappropriately, ends up flat on his back or with a bloody nose, he might reconsider trying it again. By the time he gets to high school, tales or scenes of similar responses by other girls will result in fewer incidents of predation upon girls.
Girls need to learn that their legs are longer and stronger than boys’ arms and that they in fact can prevail in a physical contest. They can also learn that they can take a punch, not just cower. They can protect themselves, do some damage and get away.
There should be immediate programs implemented in the middle and high schools. Everywhere that women meet, young and old, there should be a consideration for sharing this training and its reinforcement.
Women are targets for aggression. We need to accept the sad fact and deal with it. The men who many women look to for protection are too often the actual perpetrators. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that 65% of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners. (Office of Justice Program, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1976-2005) This does not include those brutalized victims who live to suffer in silence.
A high school intern in the office read the blog and said she agreed with and liked it. She said such a self-defense program started in Girl Scouts and that she and others were afraid of hurting someone. There again the classic female nature surfaces.
Men have not only a physical advantage but a psychological one as well, imprinted from the time they are youngsters in the schoolyard. Men don’t walk across the college campus or down the street fearing being dragged away and raped.
College men don’t have to take a friend to a college party to literally drag them out if they are groped in the dark. But college women do.
We live in the illusion of a civilized society while predation upon women is as accepted and unaddressed as with the Taliban.
Women must learn to arm themselves in the most real sense of the word, beginning when young and learning well. Unfortunately the lessons that women learn from our culture are those of passivity and submission and that ladylike behaviors are the best way for them to achieve. It is a lie.
The level of barbarism in this world is not abating and we need to address it. Please read my blog entitled, “Girls Should Train So Boys Abstain…From Hitting.”
Let’s give girls a fighting chance!