OPINION: Columnist misses the mark in blaming victims
If a man hits you, just once, just go.
While Ravary outlines the seriousness of domestic violence and stark increase in cases since the start of the pandemic, she does not seem to draw the analysis that deeper forces are at play when mentioning women, nowadays, are more independent and have better access to services than years before.
Yes, on paper, most victims of domestic abuse have a greater range of options to them. One of these options, according to Ravary, is the simplest to pursue: just leave. Don’t try to change a man. Just pack your bags, and never speak to him again. Simple. Ravary seems to have cured the plague of stigma surrounding victims of abuse by simply stating that it’s bad to be abused, and suggesting the blame for abuse falls, at least in some part, on the shoulders of the victim.
For those looking for a little more insight, there are a myriad of factors at play for why someone might stay with an abusive partner.
For starters, a basic concept of power and control that human rights undergraduates learn about is being able to push someone to a decision without them knowing. It is well-documented in literature that abusers, whether conscious, although often not, use levels of coercion to attack the very concept of abuse itself. Attacks on self-worth, excuses for outbursts, and gaslighting can make a victim question whether or not that slap, or punch, was even meant for them, or was justified.
The blurred lines between abuse and conflict, further blemished by these methods of control, make it extremely difficult for a victim to acknowledge and accept abuse is happening. It seems Ravary’s command, in a real situation, is not clear.
Violence of any kind often has deep psychological implications, but when is it considered violence? If a husband hits his wife’s leg because she took an offensive joke too far, and if he hit her just this once, should she just leave?
While Ravary’s advice seems solid, that yes, she should, how is the person to know the reality of the situation? He said sorry, that he had a rough day, and repeatedly told her stop joking about it, and the punch never left a mark. The two are together that day, and the next, and the next, and suddenly the event is in the past.
When should she leave? It was just once, after all.
How is this situation as clear-cut and simple as Ravary assumes?
While severe cases of domestic violence sound louder alarms, the cycle of abuse still runs this course. It is usually a one-off event, followed by an apology, an explanation and excuse, assurances it will not happen again, and a period where it really does seem like it will not happen again.
This cycle does not include external factors like finance, having children, housing, and social isolation. The more vulnerable the victim, the more likely they are to be abused, and the harder it is to leave.
I don’t think anybody, in these times, thinks love is worth being hit, as Ravary said. The first issue is often knowing, and accepting, that abuse is happening.
Ravary wrote about the story her parents told her; about her aunt who was hit once and then left.
It seems important to mention not everyone has the privilege to be educated on abuse as children, and the role that plays in their futures. Children who witness or experience domestic violence are far more likely to then become victims as they get older, according to Justice Canada.
If a young man sees his father beat his mother, he is less likely to think anything about being punched in the head for snoring loudly.
Ravary should listen to the advice of the director of the women’s shelter, and not judge the victims.