As of this month, seven women, two innocent men, and one boy have been murdered this year in the small city of Athens, Georgia. All of them have been “domestic violence” killings. You know — the kind of killing that almost always involves a man beating or bludgeoning or shooting or stabbing or setting afire a woman that he “loves.” The kind of killing that makes people shake their heads regretfully and talk authoritatively about what she should have done to prevent her own murder. Because, of course, she is responsible for her own beating, or bludgeoning or shooting or stabbing, isn’t she? She as good as did it to herself. Set herself on fire, I mean.
“She should have seen the signs. She would have known. She should have left. She could have.” She, she, she…
What about he, he, he…?
Yes, you can provide women and girls with “safety tips” and escape plans and shelters and support groups. Yes, women can take out those protective orders that so many abusers ignore. Yes, she can leave, even though the act of leaving or even preparing to leave is so often what seems to be the thumbs up sign to an abuser to go absolutely nuts. (He is more likely to kill her when she is trying to leave or end a relationship than at any other time.) Yes, they can go to couples counseling, during which the woman is likely to be pressured into taking “equal” responsibility for the abuse that he’s perpetrated.
And men can stop killing women. How about that for a safety tip?
The common thread in this is that women are expected to create their own safety. Why is that? What is so hard about challenging men to be responsible for male violence? Not just the men who are committing the abuse, but you. Yes, I’m talking to you, over there, the “good guy” standing on the sidelines with your arms folded, shaking your head ruefully. So sure that you have no responsibility to do anything.
It is that simple and it is that complicated. And there are men who really, really think about what it truly means to be nonviolent, nonabusive, about what it means to hold other men accountable for their violent behavior and about what it means to hold themselves accountable for their complicity. I know; I work with some of them. It gives me hope, but my real hope is in the possibility that there are more of them.
I am outraged, but that’s nothing new. Women have been outraged for a long time. Forty years ago, women’s outrage began to turn into a movement that sought and found ways to protect and assist women and children who were victims of male violence. That outrage has resulted in shelters, laws, and systems of services for those victims.
And women are still dying at rates that are painfully staggering. Female outrage is helping to save and rebuild lives for victims of violence. Could male outrage stop the violence from ever happening? And where is that outrage from men? Those men who say they want to love and protect, who say they are nonviolent and peaceful, who lament and shake their heads when they hear about another domestic violence death, but still stand impotently by, warm and snug in their I’m-not-violent-so-it’s-not-my-business cloak of invisibility?