One of the consistent findings in my research has been that domestic violence professionals, and the politicians who engage in the issues associated with it, speak in a specialized language both among themselves and to the larger public. Within this manner of speaking are a number of presumptions and “givens” that are, upon deeper examination, shown to be little more than articles of faith, a kind of pseudo-facts that easily summarize and justify certain prejudicial approaches to the problems of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and generally abusive behavior.
Here I want to examine some of these, first on face value as code terms, and then invite readers to contribute their own input into what these ideas mean, where they come from, and how they influence the thinking of the Domestic Violence (DV) industries and the public perceptions of the entire topic.
1.”The vast majority of victims are women…”
Best I can tell, this is a paraphrasing of something stated by former Senator and now US Vice-President Joe Biden. He is often quoted in Justice Department documents saying this, and as a self-defining premise it stands unchallenged at the heading of a program named after one sex, and belatedly offering to “include” the other. The “vast majority” meme is so oft-repeated and -referred-to as holy writ in discussions of DV, that it obscures the mass body of evidence to the contrary, as if the question of who is victimized by these crimes against humanity were settled for all time and against all challenge.
This concept is more powerful than meets the eye. It essentially limits the entire discussion to settings where one helpless victim is continually at the mercy of one motivated, overpowering perpetrator, and invalidates entirely the idea that a household or relationship may be mutually violent or abusive. It also neatly discounts the influences of substance abuse/addiction as contributors to abusive conduct, as well as post-traumatic effects, prescription medications, third-party actors such as cuckolds, in-laws and gang members exerting influence over household behavior. “Victim/perpetrator” logic essentially paints a picture of the helpless woman, cowering defenselessly before the monstrous man and awaiting her next beating, and ignores the available facts on all the other different kinds of abuses and their motive factors.
3.”Power & control”
Another canonical notion, that abusive conduct is exclusively motivated by a perpetrator’s obsessions and a victim’s helplessness against them. The hidden subtext that is often not mentioned by name but generally implicit (see item #1), is that power and control are patriarchal objectives, that a man abuses a woman because he believes he has the right to. This postulates that only men are motivated to violence and abuse by a quest for power, and also that this is the only possible motive for any kind of abuse. Indeed, I ran across a statement by a “scholar” parroting all the above ideograms the other day, who made so bold as to say that fighting between a couple could not be described as domestic violence because it was not motivated by power & control. In other words, children traumatized for life by Mommy’s nightly bouts over a fifth of Jack and an eight-ball of crack with her latest boyfriend are not really victims, because neither of the adults was trying to control the other…(?)
These are probably the Top Three in the Holy Canons of DV practitioners and activists, but there are others. Feel free to contribute & comment, and I will add more as they arise in my ongoing studies.
4. “Get out while you still can”
This scattershot advice is something I see often in discussion threads on DV, where a woman will write in vaguely describing a situation where a man has done something like open her mail, or argued with her in a heated manner, and the other ladies in the thread will descend on this content with this well-meaning and universally applicable solution. Naturally, it never occurs to anyone that a woman has a brain in her head, that she is looking for outside justifications for what she is already planning to do (leave a man and take his kids away), and that she has the cognitive ability to know in advance what these groups want to hear in order to tell her what she wants to hear in return. This also applies in law offices, women’s shelters (with all the needed application forms for free services to “victims”), and courts of law.
5. “He had it coming/ she was driven to…”
This one is attended by much tragedy, bloodshed, and innocent loss of life. Anything from a woman abandoning a man for reasons unrelated to his being violent, to taking children from their fathers, to premeditated assaults and homicides on unsuspecting men outside any acts of violence being defended against, to women killing their own children and committing suicide, has been explained historically all too often by this dangerously reckless idea. Its usage implies a complete inability to accept the notion of a woman’s culpability or the suspect nature of her own intentions and motives for them. It is probably, in its way, one of the most insulting degradations of women that exist, a suggestion that a woman’s actions are only re-actions, and not something she is even capable of being in charge of herself.
6. “My Abuser”
There seems to be an unwritten law among DV people, that their legitimacy of commitment is defined by their credentials as victims. As “survivors” or “recovering victims” their professional objectivity is not called into question by their personal experiences, nor even by their ongoing inability to see any case before them through anything but their own personal lens of experiences. Such participants in discussions or in casework (again, generally women) will put information from a case file or one woman’s verbal descriptions of her circumstance, into a larger context by relating it back to their own background, using the term “My Abuser” as a biographical reference to why they have the right and the mandate to be involved in this kind of work at all. This “My Abuser” person apparently has granted them license for life to see only through their own prejudicial perspective just what is happening in everyone else’s life. In a creepy kind of way, “survivors” constantly referring to their personal Abuser has a resemblance-in-reverse to born-again converts who have learned to explain everything about themselves in terms of their relationship with Jesus; the Abuser persona lives on and re-defines them as human beings as a sort of anti-messianic figure who has given their new lives post-abuse a whole new meaning.
7. “He must have done something to deserve it”
This one, like #5 above, is used as a catch-all disclaimer for that other totally explainable outcome: maternal abandonment of fathers and the removal of children from them. #5 is used mostly after the fact in cases where a woman clearly has been the one whose harmful acts can be proven. This one is used more often where no violence is ever shown to have occurred at all, but a woman is given sympathy and support for deserting a marriage, home and man by onlookers who will simply assume that it had been his conduct and not hers that had made the relationship untenable.
I got one of these just today, from a woman who was commenting on a thread of mine at LinkedIn about trying to re-establish contact with my son after four years’ silence, which his mother claimed back then was a 12-yr-old boy’s idea, and included not just me but my entire family. The woman wanted to know what had happened between the two of us that might have preceded an act of parental alienation, then became indignant when I asserted to her that her question was immaterial. I went on to explain to her, as patiently as I could, that she was not even recognizing the premise behind her question, and that she would not have asked it at all if it were a mother trying to get back to her child and not a father. “What happened?” is not a question that has any bearing on parental alienation, as the obvious answer is “she got pregnant and they became parents, and the rest is nobody’s damn business unless a crime is PROVEN to have been committed.”
But with “he must have done something to deserve it” used to rationalize everything from marital desertion to castration, and hanging in the air like a toxic cloud, people don’t even see just how double the standard is, when they go fishing like this poor gal did, to find some angle where she could point out to me that, if I could just address the poor mom’s feelings about me, maybe the whole thing would blow over and all could be forgiven. That there is anything to forgive, except a mother’s choice to cut a boy off from half his family and then blame it on him, is the unspoken premise behind asking “what happened between you two?”
These are all posts authored by me aka “Rof L Mao Esq” on the Antimisandry.com thread linked above. Other posts by other AM members not seen here may be viewed by following the link to the original thread at Anti-Misandry.–RC